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Question on Pronouns: Concision and Clarity

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Question on Pronouns: Concision and Clarity [#permalink] New post 07 Nov 2011, 10:40
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Hi

Below is a sentence I have confusion about

The board is investigating the compensation packages of several executives in order to determine how much they may have been improperly awarded

this is not right according to manhattan gmat because underlined they could refer to packages or executives.

Question : Is it not obvious that they here refers to executives

Better : The board is .... how much these executives may have been improperly awarded.

Questio n : The above sentence even though more clear is not as concise. So in GMAT what is more important concision or clarity, though I also think going by logic they would mean executives, so no need for the better .

Please let me know

Thanks
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Re: Question on Pronouns: Concision and Clarity [#permalink] New post 07 Nov 2011, 12:40
I think the they could be confused with either the BOARD, the PACKAGES or the EXECUTIVES, you may know that the board is collective singular, but others may not. (although referring to board doesn't makes sense, the anxious reader may bite for it)

Concision tends to be the last grammar issue to look for in SC. The second sentence you provided CLEARLY states it's the executives that are being investigated. Think of a five year old reading this and have them ask, who is they?

If they could be two things, there is almost definitely a choice that repeats the "obvious" subject
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Re: Question on Pronouns: Concision and Clarity [#permalink] New post 07 Nov 2011, 15:45
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On GMAT, pronoun reference is governed by context or logic.
If there are two antecedents which may be grammatical referents of a pronoun, but if only one of those make logical sense with the pronoun, then there is no pronoun ambiguity. For example:

The car hit the tree, breaking its engine. - Here "it" can grammatically refer to either car or tree. But logically only "car" has engine, and hence "its" refers to car.
The car hit the tree, breaking its branches. - Here also "it" can grammatically refer to either car or tree. But logically only "tree" has branches, and hence "its" refers to tree.
The car hit the tree, breaking its parts. - Here also "it" can grammatically refer to either car or tree. And logically too both "car" an "tree" have parts, so in this sentence we have pronoun ambiguity.

Now lets consider the sentence in question:

The board is investigating the compensation packages of several executives in order to determine how much they may have been improperly awarded.

Likewise, in this sentence, both "packages" and "executives" make sense. Notice the two sentences below. Both are correct. So you may notice that we can get to either of these sentences if we replace "they" with these possible two antecedents.
Compensation packages may have been improperly awarded (to people).
Executives may have been improperly awarded (the compensation).
This is why there is pronoun ambiguity in this sentence.

Now lets assume, if we had the following sentence:
The board is investigating the compensation packages of several executives in order to determine how much they may have been improperly awarded to the executives.
Now only "packages" will make logical sense in place of "they". Thus, the sentence above does not have any pronoun ambiguity.

Thus, always go by logic to see if there is any pronoun ambiguity or not. Meaning is the key !!!

You may also review the following posts on pronoun ambiguity:
http://e-gmat.com/blogs/?p=289 - No Ambiguity
http://e-gmat.com/blogs/?p=285 - Possible Ambiguity

Payal

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Re: Question on Pronouns: Concision and Clarity [#permalink] New post 07 Nov 2011, 19:26
Hey check out MGMAT page 232. You will get clarified on the same.

Refer the topic of generic synonym for the antecedent.

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Re: Question on Pronouns: Concision and Clarity   [#permalink] 07 Nov 2011, 19:26
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