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SAT WRITING

Improving Paragraphs

How to Combine Sentences


Most often youll combine sentences by using a comma and a conjunction (a conjunction is a connecting word like and,
but, or so). You can also combine sentences using semicolons and colons. We explain all of the different combination
methods below.

Comma and Conjunction


Say the question asks you to combine these two sentences:
She flushed her engagement ring down the toilet. The plumber got it back for her.
If you combine these two sentences through the power of a comma and a conjunction, you get
She flushed her engagement ring down the toilet, but the plumber got it back for her.
Just be careful that the conjunction you choose makes sense. The revision below is grammatically correct, but logically
flawed:
She flushed her engagement ring down the toilet, because the plumber got it back for her.
The word because does not make sense, since it suggests that the woman in question flushed her ring down the toilet a
second time as a result of the plumber initially retrieving it. Words like because, despite, and therefore indicate whether
one-half of the sentence goes with the flow of the other half of the sentence. We call these words contrast words and
noncontrast words, and we include a complete chart of the ones you need to know in our Beat Improving Sentences
section on page .

Semicolon
If two sentences are closely related, you can combine them with a semicolon. Say you begin with these two sentences:
Margaret recently met her future mother-in-law. Problems ensued immediately.
The combination with a semicolon looks like this:
Margaret recently met her future mother-in-law; problems ensued immediately.

Expressing a Logical Relationship (Use the Answers!)


Remember how we said one type of Improving Paragraphs question requires an exception to the five-step strategy? This is
it. Some Sentence Combination questions ask you to combine two sentences in a way that makes their logical relationship
clearer. By logical relationship we mean the way the two sentences interact. On logical relationship questions, the answer
choices can do a lot of the tough work for you, so you should read the answers first, before coming up with your own.
That just means you should do step 4 by reading the answers first and then creating your own answer. A quick scan of the
answers will make it clear what kind of possible logical relationship the test-writers see between the two sentences. Your
job is then to pick the answer choice with the most perfect grammar and the most sensible logical relationship. Heres an
example:

To vary the pattern of sentences in the first paragraph, which of the following is the best way to
combine sentences 2 and 3 (reprinted below)?
My sister eats nasty cottage cheese and grapes for lunch. I eat fresh tacos.
(A) While my sister eats nasty cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, fresh tacos are what Im eating.
(B) In contrast to my sister eating nasty cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, I will be eating fresh
tacos.
(C)
My sister was eating nasty cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, I was eating fresh tacos.
(D)
My sister eats nasty cottage cheese and grapes for lunch and I am not the same because I eat
fresh tacos.
(E)
Unlike my sister, who eats nasty cottage cheese and grapes for lunch, I eat fresh tacos.

To find your answer look for two things:


Contrast or no contrast?
Is the answer choice grammatically correct?
First, whats the relationship between the two sentences? The speaker establishes a contrast between her sisters eating
habits and her own. Now lets go through the answer choices.
By using the word while, A does a good job of expressing the relationship, but it has a parallelism error. It begins by
saying my sister eats, so the second half of the sentence should say I eat (not Im eating) in order for both halves of the
sentence to match up. B also does a good job with the logical relationship, but it has a tense problem; the sister is eating in
the present tense, but the speaker is eating sometime in the future. This changes the original meaning of the two sentences,
in which both people are eating at the same time. Answer choice C doesnt express the logical relationship at all and is
also a run-on sentence. Answer choice D expresses the relationship but is awkward and wordy because of the phrase and I
am not the same. That leaves answer choice E, which expresses the basic logical relationship between the two sentences,
and does it grammatically.