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GMAT English VS Real World English

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GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 22 Oct 2012, 04:27
During my struggle with GMAT SC, I realized that I was ignorant of many of the GMAT's grammar rules! I started scanning english articles of some reputable magazines and newspapers out there, and to my shock, I realized that they almost consistently violate GMAT's english rules! here are some examples.


NY times
Quote:
It’s a gift for moviegoers to have this much freedom, and exhilarating.
A concrete noun is made parallel to an action noun.


Quote:
All movies demand interpretation, but Mr. Carax doesn’t seem interested in your solving his puzzle, which allows you to solve it as you like. About all that’s clear is that Mr. Oscar works for an entity, perhaps God, which also makes this a movie about filmmaking and the ecstasy of creation.
bolded which modifies a whole phrase; a major sin from GMAT's point of view. "your solving" might also be considered awkward.


Quote:
That world is full of laughter, horror, rapture and eddies and swells of despair. It’s an episodic work of great visual invention — from scene to scene, you never see what’s coming — that reminds you just how drearily conventional many movies are.
that after the dash is not followed by a noun and vaguely refers the whole clause before it.


Quote:
At a rally on Friday morning in Fairfax, Va., Mr. Obama found a way to encapsulate his campaign’s attack on Mr. Romney’s attempts to moderate some of his more conservative positions.
Possessive poison rule, his refers to a noun, Mr. Romney, although the noun is mentioned only in a possessive form.


Foreign policy

Quote:
Alarmists about Afghanistan's future paint two likely scenarios: civil war, or the forceful return of the Taliban. Neither of these scenarios ring true.
Neither is a singular indefinite pronoun, ring is a plural verb!


Quote:
But the Gallup polling firm apparently believes it's tracked down 80 politically uncommitted Long Islanders to compose the audience at tonight's town hall-style presidential debate, which will touch on a mix of foreign and domestic policy issues. All this raises the question: What's the foreign policy of undecided voters?
"this" is not followed by a noun, and vaguely refers to a whole sentence.

Quote:
Morsy's dangerous embrace of Iran is leading a surprising shift in favor support for Tehran, which has for decades been seen by Egyptians as their top threat, as well as for their work on nuclear weapons.
their, a plural pronoun, is supposed to refer to Tehran, a singular.


Quote:
McDonald's franchises and makeup counters, online education and the superrich who got us into this mess in the first place, might not seem like obvious beneficiaries of the crash, but at a time when the future still seems dangerously uncertain, these are the closest things out there to sure bets.
These is not followed by a noun. (this one is too common!)


Quote:
McDonald's understands the wellsprings of its success, which is why it has seen its stock rise more than 500 percent in the past decade.
which refers to whole clause.


There are countless examples, giving me some relief that I am not alone in my utter ignorance; however, such mistakes are too common to be just careless mistakes by such professional editors. I'd like to ask the experts of this forum if there is any advanced, comprehensive reference for english grammar that I can use as a tie breaker here, as I'd like to go more in depth into this subject.
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 22 Oct 2012, 13:04
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Qassam wrote:
During my struggle with GMAT SC, I realized that I was ignorant of many of the GMAT's grammar rules! I started scanning english articles of some reputable magazines and newspapers out there, and to my shock, I realized that they almost consistently violate GMAT's english rules! here are some examples.

There are countless examples, giving me some relief that I am not alone in my utter ignorance; however, such mistakes are too common to be just careless mistakes by such professional editors. I'd like to ask the experts of this forum if there is any advanced, comprehensive reference for english grammar that I can use as a tie breaker here, as I'd like to go more in depth into this subject.

Dear Qassam,

Yes, in our benighted and vastly undereducated population, all standards of intellectual rigor seem to be sinking into the mire of indistinction. Even the lauded NYT has its flaws --- in its effort to connect with a wildly ungrammatical population, it violates one rule after another. The GMAT SC standards are lofty, and few others maintain these.

You may find this blog, http://magoosh.com/gmat/, offers a high level of grammatical advice. Also, a book for which I have considerable esteem is The Oxford English Grammar, by Sidney Greenbaum.

I hope this helps.

Mike :-)
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 23 Oct 2012, 10:14
Thanks for your insightful reply.
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 30 Dec 2015, 16:17
mikemcgarry wrote:
Qassam wrote:
During my struggle with GMAT SC, I realized that I was ignorant of many of the GMAT's grammar rules! I started scanning english articles of some reputable magazines and newspapers out there, and to my shock, I realized that they almost consistently violate GMAT's english rules! here are some examples.

There are countless examples, giving me some relief that I am not alone in my utter ignorance; however, such mistakes are too common to be just careless mistakes by such professional editors. I'd like to ask the experts of this forum if there is any advanced, comprehensive reference for english grammar that I can use as a tie breaker here, as I'd like to go more in depth into this subject.

Dear Qassam,

Yes, in our benighted and vastly undereducated population, all standards of intellectual rigor seem to be sinking into the mire of indistinction. Even the lauded NYT has its flaws --- in its effort to connect with a wildly ungrammatical population, it violates one rule after another. The GMAT SC standards are lofty, and few others maintain these.

You may find this blog, http://magoosh.com/gmat/, offers a high level of grammatical advice. Also, a book for which I have considerable esteem is The Oxford English Grammar, by Sidney Greenbaum.

I hope this helps.

Mike :-)



Hi Mike

Can you also recommend a good dictionary which can tell subtle difference between similar words and which is good reference work for writers as well?
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 31 Dec 2015, 00:52
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Qassam,

Thanks for your interesting post. I, too, keep a doc of grammar errors collected from the New York Times. However, not all of the items you listed are errors. In fact, the NYT comes out of this looking pretty good! There's enough of interest here that I'd like to respond item by item.

Qassam wrote:
During my struggle with GMAT SC, I realized that I was ignorant of many of the GMAT's grammar rules! I started scanning english articles of some reputable magazines and newspapers out there, and to my shock, I realized that they almost consistently violate GMAT's english rules! here are some examples.


NY times
Quote:
It’s a gift for moviegoers to have this much freedom, and exhilarating.
A concrete noun is made parallel to an action noun.

This is definitely a bit of style that wouldn't be allowed on the GMAT. Is it wrong? No, the author knows what they're doing, but this is a standard move. (Notice that I committed another "sin": the use of "they" to refer to a person whose gender I don't know. The GMAT doesn't allow this, but only because it is behind the times.)

Quote:
All movies demand interpretation, but Mr. Carax doesn’t seem interested in your solving his puzzle, which allows you to solve it as you like. About all that’s clear is that Mr. Oscar works for an entity, perhaps God, which also makes this a movie about filmmaking and the ecstasy of creation.
bolded which modifies a whole phrase; a major sin from GMAT's point of view. "your solving" might also be considered awkward.

This definitely breaks a GMAT rule, but the actual rules concerning "which" are not nearly as strict as the GMAT would have us believe. My brother often complains about the "which/that rule," which has only recently come to prominence and is routinely broken by many authors of quality literature.

As for "your solving," that is 100% correct, both in real life and on the GMAT. True, most people don't speak this way, but that's another story. What isn't Mr. Carax interested in? Solving. Whose solving? Your solving. If they said "Mr. Carax isn't interested in you solving his puzzle," it might sound more natural to our ear, but it's not you that he's uninterested in; it's your solving.

Quote:
That world is full of laughter, horror, rapture and eddies and swells of despair. It’s an episodic work of great visual invention — from scene to scene, you never see what’s coming — that reminds you just how drearily conventional many movies are.
that after the dash is not followed by a noun and vaguely refers the whole clause before it.

This, too, is 100% correct. The dashes here serve create a parenthetical. Ignore everything between the pair of dashes and you have a fine sentence: "It’s an episodic work of great visual invention that reminds you just how drearily conventional many movies are."

Quote:
At a rally on Friday morning in Fairfax, Va., Mr. Obama found a way to encapsulate his campaign’s attack on Mr. Romney’s attempts to moderate some of his more conservative positions.
Possessive poison rule, his refers to a noun, Mr. Romney, although the noun is mentioned only in a possessive form.

You've got the possessive poison rule backwards. This rule (which is rather silly and is not often tested) prohibits our using a non-possessive pronoun for a possessive antecedent. It doesn't work the other way around, and it certainly doesn't prevent us from using a possessive pronoun for a possessive antecedent, as is done here. (Notice how I used "prohibits our using"? Again, as with "your solving," this is correct.)

Allowed: I noticed Romney's attempts to moderate his positions.
Allowed: Romney attempted to moderate his positions.
Not allowed: Romney's attempts to moderate his positions earned him many additional votes. (Only the "him" here violates the rule. In any case, this is silly, as it's quite obvious in this case who "him" refers to.)

Foreign policy

Quote:
Alarmists about Afghanistan's future paint two likely scenarios: civil war, or the forceful return of the Taliban. Neither of these scenarios ring true.
Neither is a singular indefinite pronoun, ring is a plural verb!

You're right here. "Neither" is singular, so it should be "rings." "Rings" would be correct if we replaced "Neither" with "None."

Quote:
But the Gallup polling firm apparently believes it's tracked down 80 politically uncommitted Long Islanders to compose the audience at tonight's town hall-style presidential debate, which will touch on a mix of foreign and domestic policy issues. All this raises the question: What's the foreign policy of undecided voters?
"this" is not followed by a noun, and vaguely refers to a whole sentence.

In real writing, the word "this" doesn't need to be followed by a noun. It's fine for it to refer back to an entire concept--in this case, the whole previous sentence (or perhaps more). The reason this doesn't work on GMAT SC is that you only work with one sentence at a time, so you're not likely to be faced with a situation in which "this" or "these" is used correctly without a clarifying noun. (Note that I correctly used the word "this" to refer back to the practice I mentioned in the previous sentence.) So keep applying this "rule" on the GMAT, in which extreme levels of clarity are demanded, but don't expect the rest of the world to play along.

Quote:
Morsy's dangerous embrace of Iran is leading a surprising shift in favor support for Tehran, which has for decades been seen by Egyptians as their top threat, as well as for their work on nuclear weapons.
their, a plural pronoun, is supposed to refer to Tehran, a singular.

This sentence is a mess overall: "in favor support" is missing a word, and the last part ("as well as for . . .") doesn't really connect to the rest of the sentence. I looked it up, and it seems to be part of a larger quotation from an individual. This may explain the poor grammar.

Quote:
McDonald's franchises and makeup counters, online education and the superrich who got us into this mess in the first place, might not seem like obvious beneficiaries of the crash, but at a time when the future still seems dangerously uncertain, these are the closest things out there to sure bets.
These is not followed by a noun. (this one is too common!)

Again, this is not an error in real life. That's why it's so common! :wink:

Quote:
McDonald's understands the wellsprings of its success, which is why it has seen its stock rise more than 500 percent in the past decade.
which refers to whole clause.

Again, I agree here, but again, real-world views vary on this rule.

There are countless examples, giving me some relief that I am not alone in my utter ignorance; however, such mistakes are too common to be just careless mistakes by such professional editors. I'd like to ask the experts of this forum if there is any advanced, comprehensive reference for english grammar that I can use as a tie breaker here, as I'd like to go more in depth into this subject.


I wish I could recommend a comprehensive source, but the fact is that there is no one definitive rulebook for English. In many cases, experts disagree. It can be helpful to look up several articles on a given topic to get a better picture of the issue.
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 31 Dec 2015, 11:43
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zeeasl wrote:
Hi Mike

Can you also recommend a good dictionary which can tell subtle difference between similar words and which is good reference work for writers as well?

Dear zeeasl,
I'm happy to respond. :-)

There is no one book which is universally considered the best. Here are a few suggestions.
1) One extremely popular book on the topic is The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. This is a very short book and it is an excellent guide for writers. It contains a chapter on "Words & Expressions Commonly Misused," which would address a few problems with similar words. You could read this book from cover to cover in one sitting: it is very approachable.
2) A considerably more substantial book is Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. This is a dense 600+ page book. It's more of a reference book than one that someone would read. This book has an extensive section on "confusable words and expressions." I have tremendous respect for this book.
3) Another good book is Errors in English and Ways to Correct Them, by Harry Shaw. This has a chapter entitled "Guide to Correct Word Usage" that addresses the difference in similar words. This is a smaller book, more on the readable side.
4) I already recommended the Oxford English Grammar above to Qassam----this is another dense tome! This is purely a reference book, not a book one would read.

Of course, the absolutely maddening thing is that each one of these books has a different standard, and none of these standards is the same as the standard on the GMAT SC. I would say, each book is to some extent describing what real people do with language, and the GMAT SC is sets a considerably higher bar. Nevertheless, if you understood what these books say about similar words and took to heart their advice on writing, that could be an immense help.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2016, 10:59
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Hi zeeasl,

Is your goal more focused on preparing for the GMAT or more towards improving your general language/speaking skills?

Since you're posting on this site, I assume that your primary focus is GMAT-related, so I'd like to know a bit more about your studies so far and your goals:

1) How long have you been studying?
2) What materials have you used so far?
3) How have you scored on your practice CATs and/or Official GMAT (including the Quant and Verbal Scaled Scores)?

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GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2016, 00:35
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Qassam wrote:
During my struggle with GMAT SC, I realized that I was ignorant of many of the GMAT's grammar rules! I started scanning english articles of some reputable magazines and newspapers out there, and to my shock, I realized that they almost consistently violate GMAT's english rules! here are some examples.

There are countless examples, giving me some relief that I am not alone in my utter ignorance; however, such mistakes are too common to be just careless mistakes by such professional editors. I'd like to ask the experts of this forum if there is any advanced, comprehensive reference for english grammar that I can use as a tie breaker here, as I'd like to go more in depth into this subject.
Even with the neither, it's worth noting that you're looking at neither of, not neither. There is absolutely no reason to stick to the singular with neither of. And there really is no way anyone can justify a strictly singular or strictly plural call with neither of today (though going "singular only" is still considered more formal).

Also, if it helps you, exhilarating is an adjective, not a noun.

Qassam wrote:
I'd like to ask the experts of this forum if there is any advanced, comprehensive reference for english grammar that I can use as a tie breaker here, as I'd like to go more in depth into this subject.
The official material itself is probably going to be your best bet if you're looking to do this for the GMAT.
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2016, 15:20
mikemcgarry wrote:
zeeasl wrote:
Hi Mike

Can you also recommend a good dictionary which can tell subtle difference between similar words and which is good reference work for writers as well?

Dear zeeasl,
I'm happy to respond. :-)

There is no one book which is universally considered the best. Here are a few suggestions.
1) One extremely popular book on the topic is The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. This is a very short book and it is an excellent guide for writers. It contains a chapter on "Words & Expressions Commonly Misused," which would address a few problems with similar words. You could read this book from cover to cover in one sitting: it is very approachable.
2) A considerably more substantial book is Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. This is a dense 600+ page book. It's more of a reference book than one that someone would read. This book has an extensive section on "confusable words and expressions." I have tremendous respect for this book.
3) Another good book is Errors in English and Ways to Correct Them, by Harry Shaw. This has a chapter entitled "Guide to Correct Word Usage" that addresses the difference in similar words. This is a smaller book, more on the readable side.
4) I already recommended the Oxford English Grammar above to Qassam----this is another dense tome! This is purely a reference book, not a book one would read.

Of course, the absolutely maddening thing is that each one of these books has a different standard, and none of these standards is the same as the standard on the GMAT SC. I would say, each book is to some extent describing what real people do with language, and the GMAT SC is sets a considerably higher bar. Nevertheless, if you understood what these books say about similar words and took to heart their advice on writing, that could be an immense help.

Does all this make sense?
Mike :-)


Thanks Mike. i would consult these books to sharpen my english language skills. By the way i have signed up for magoosh premium only because of your great posts on both the gmat club and on the magoosh gmat blog.

Zee
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 05 Jan 2016, 17:12
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AjiteshArun wrote:
Even with the neither, it's worth noting that you're looking at neither of, not neither. There is absolutely no reason to stick to the singular with neither of. And there really is no way anyone can justify a strictly singular or strictly plural call with neither of today (though going "singular only" is still considered more formal).

Dear AjiteshArun,
My friend, I respect what you have to say, but I would quibble on this one point.

The GMAT SC is one of the most conservative and most formal regions of grammar in the entire English-speaking world. I would say that is still eminently reasonable to expect that the GMAT SC could throw a "neither of [plural noun]" subject at us and expect us to know that it is singular. Personally, I think the SVA mistake in the NYT quoted above is appalling.
Neither of these scenarios ring true.
The NYT is no longer the barometer for well-spoken English that it once was. Nevertheless, even if this grammar error would elude the vast majority of Americans and their newspapers, I believe it still might be tested with precision on the GMAT.

Mike :-)
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English [#permalink] New post 06 Jan 2016, 00:25
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mikemcgarry wrote:
I respect what you have to say, but I would quibble on this one point.
There is a difference between saying that something is incorrect (always) and saying that it is not appropriate (for a particular situation). I advise my students to go singular on neither of [plural noun], but they really don't need to be that careful in a less formal situation. The OP ends by saying that he or she wants "to go more in depth into this subject". In this case, this is it. There is no "one answer".

It's similar to what DmitryFarber says about they. The singular they is either already acceptable to most people or well on its way to gaining widespread acceptance. Would anyone recommend using they to refer to a singular noun on the GMAT? No. Using it is, however, not a sign of utter ignorance (as the OP puts it) :)
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Re: GMAT English VS Real World English   [#permalink] 06 Jan 2016, 00:25
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