Sometimes, less is more.
This rule of thumb is especially important to keep in mind during the Writing and Language portion of the SAT. Why? The answer lies in something called word economy. Word economy is the practice of using fewer, simpler words to say more. There’s a common misconception that longer, more complex sentences are the mark of a good writer—when, in
fact, the opposite is true. Good writers should be able to express their ideas concisely without putting a mental burden on their readers.
Word economy is one of the key skills tested in the Writing and Language portion of the SAT. Take a look at this quote from the College Board’s official SAT study guide:
“Writing and Language questions can be sorted into two general categories: (1) Expression of Ideas, and (2) Standard English Conventions. … Expression of Ideas questions deal with improving the substance and quality of the writer’s message. … [These] questions ask you to improve precision and concision (e.g. eliminating wordiness).”
That means you are almost guaranteed to encounter questions assessing your word economy during the SAT. Let’s prepare by taking a look at some real examples.
One of the most common cases of unnecessary wordiness are conjunctions. It can be tempting to replace the word and with phrases like in addition to, and also, as well as , etc. But more often than not, a simple “and” is the best option . The same rule applies to other conjunctions:
Correct Answer: (A)
If a phrase repeats something the reader already knows, you can probably omit it. In this example, the word “proponents” at the start of the sentence implies that the subjects support compulsory volunteering. Therefore, it’s redundant to say that they are also “advocates” or “in favor of” the cause. When evaluating your options, remember to ask yourself, “Does this give me any new information?”
Correct Answer: (C)
You might come across a question where all of the answers seem grammatically correct. How do you pick one over another? In cases like these, the correct answer is most likely the shortest
one. In this example, although all of the phrases are grammatically sound, option D expresses the same idea with the fewest number of words—and, therefore, the best word economy.
Correct Answer: (D)
By looking for conjunctions, redundancy, and the shortest answers, you can master the art of word economy. With some practice, you can ace these questions on the SAT! But the importance of word economy extends far beyond multiple-choice questions. Improving this skill is a great first step toward becoming a better writer . See if you can integrate these tips into your own writing. Soon, you will be saying more by saying less.