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# Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written

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Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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Updated on: 26 Oct 2018, 02:13
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62% (01:42) correct 38% (01:47) wrong based on 8094 sessions

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Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering

(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering

(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering

(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1998/12/13/268003.html?pageNumber=146
https://www.nytimes.com/1998/12/13/books/two-belles-of-amherst.html

Dickinson's surviving letters to Susan, which began ardently a few years before Susan's marriage and continued almost until the poet's death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else. After an examination of these cryptic messages, Ellen Louise Hart and Martha Nell Smith have emerged up in arms for Susan. In compiling ''Open Me Carefully'' (which includes more than 20 poems and one letter not previously connected to Susan), they aim to show that the women enjoyed a long, close relationship, one whose workaday exchange of ''letter-poems'' (Susan's term) contributed to ''the texture of their daily life.'' Even more urgent, however, is their intent to champion Susan as Dickinson's ''primary reader'' -- the person they believe exerted the most significant, sustaining influence on Dickinson's poetic and erotic sensibility.

Originally posted by ywilfred on 11 Mar 2005, 00:08.
Last edited by Bunuel on 26 Oct 2018, 02:13, edited 12 times in total.
Renamed the topic and edited the question.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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02 Apr 2013, 13:07
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Choice A is incorrect because of modifier error.
"outnumbering her letters to anyone else" should modify the letters but its placement is such that it appears to modify the preceding clause.

Notice that comma + verb-ing modify the preceding clause. And this modification does not make sense here. This is because it was not because the letters were written in the specified period that these letters outnumbered the other set of letters. In fact these two actions - were written and outnumber are really two different characteristics of the letters.

Lets consider an example sentence:
The film was shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeding expectations of the producers.
This sentence is incorrect since the verb-ing modifier appears to modify preceding clause and in this sentence this modification does not make sense. The fact that the film was shot in a small town did not really lead to exceeding the expectations of the producers.

The correct sentence is:
The film, shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeded the expectations of the producers.

The sentence simply states a fact that this film exceeded the expectations. It does not provide any reasoning for the same.

The film received significant critical acclaim, exceeding the expectations of the producers.
This sentence is correct. In this sentence, the verb-ing modifier makes complete sense with the preceding clause. The expectations of the producers were exceeded by virtue of the film receiving significant critical acclaim.

Hope this helps
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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11 Mar 2005, 12:10
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I was correct thinking that "which" should point to the closest subject and it does, but wrong in identifying the subject.

"Emily Dickinsonâ€™s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, which were ..."

"to Susan Huntington Dickinson" is a prepositional phrase and not the subject. Emily Dickinson's letters is the subject and 'which' is correctly pointing to it.

HongHu, in your sentence from OG,

From the bark of the paper birch tree the Menomini crafted a canoe about twenty feet long and two feet wide, with small ribs and rails of cedar, which could carry four persons or eight hundred pounds of baggage yet was so light that a person could easily portage it around impeding rapids

about twenty feet long and two feet wide is a prepostional phrase and with small ribs and rails of cedar is a parenthetical element/additional info. The subject is "canoe", so 'which' appropriately points to it.

Thanks Honghu for pointing me my error.
A thorough analysis helps me remember.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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11 Mar 2005, 00:25
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From the OG itself:

From the bark of the paper birch tree the Menomini crafted a canoe about twenty feet long and two feet wide, with small ribs and rails of cedar, which could carry four persons or eight hundred pounds of baggage yet was so light that a person could easily portage it around impeding rapids.

"which" here obviously doesn't refer to cedar, rather, it refers to "canoe". The noun that the nonrestrictive clause modifies doesn't necessarily need to be immediately proceed the comma. The OG concept is that it cannot refer to a vague idea that is expressed in the entire sentence, and that it must point to a noun (again, not necessarily immediately before the comma). For example, you can't say:
"The earth is not flat, which had puzzled many people in the old days."

Just my two cents.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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09 Mar 2006, 22:44
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E)Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susanâ€™s marriage to Emilyâ€™s brother and ending shortly before Emilyâ€™s death in 1886, outnumber

choose E

--> "which" clealrly refers to the letters
--> parallel - beginning ..ending
--> the part without the nonrestrictive clause makes sense
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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07 Oct 2007, 00:17
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

A. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan HuntingtonDickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering

E. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan HuntingtonDickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber[/quote]

BTW what is exactly wrong with A anyways? A and E are in the same voice whether it is passive or active the difference being A eliminates the erroneous placement of which.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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07 Oct 2007, 10:02
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Artemov wrote:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

A. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan HuntingtonDickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering

E. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan HuntingtonDickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

Quote:
BTW what is exactly wrong with A anyways? A and E are in the same voice whether it is passive or active the difference being A eliminates the erroneous placement of which.

Very interesting discussion going on here and that too on a topic that I confess is very dear to me!

Let's deal with this beast in two parts -

The problem with A is the participle OUTNUMBERING. As written in A, it clearly modifies period which is definitely not right. It must refer to letters.

In E on the other hand, it's quite clear what outnumber is referring to - letters.

However, of course, E seems to have a problem with the placement of which. We all know this fact cold that GMAT doesn't like the placement of which to be fiddled with in any way - and it must without fail appear immediately after the noun it's supposed to displace.

Thus - The Community hall in the townsquare which we all like is already booked for another marriage.

We know that which must refer to the community hall - but here it's appearing immediately after townsquare causing a GENUINE confusion in the reader's mind as to which of the two do WE ALL LIKE? Community Hall or Townsquare?

Compare this with another scenario -

All my requests to George which were to make him aware of his mistakes went unheeded by him.

Here IMO - the object of the preposition TO, George can't be modified by which; hence by logical extension, which modifies requests.

I don't want to contradict what we have all learnt about the usage of which and the restriction that it should be as close as possible to the noun it's intended to modify; all I am saying is, if a prepositional phrase intervenes between the which and the proable subject - so long as which can unambigously refer to the earlier subject and NOT the object of the preposition (as in the case of George above and UNLIKE the case of the townsquare earlier) we are OK.

In our example in this question - the scenario is simlar - it talks about Letters to Dickinson which --- again, the prepositional TO DICKINSON does not affect the relationship between which and Letters. Also, Dickinson can't be qualified by which anyway. You need WHO in the relative clause for an animate object like dickinson.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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02 Jun 2009, 11:25
1
IMO E.

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years
before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering

her letters to anyone else.

A.Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and
ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
The parallel structure is not correct and therefore " outnumbering " sounds correct , which is not.
B.Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother
and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
written over a period that begins ......and ended shortly - not parallel
C.Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that
ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886and outnumbering
written over a period beginning ......and that ends- not parallel
D.Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s
brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
Since "and" is ommitted , "ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886" modifies "Emily’s
brother" which is absurd

E.Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s
brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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09 Jul 2010, 23:33
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Yes even i chose A because of the 'WHICH' in E though E looked better.

For those of you who are still confused with this question, heres something i gathered from manhattan:

First of all, 'WHICH' refers to previous noun no doubt but in sentences as clear as these, 'which' can in no way refer to Dickinson, who is a person. So it should refer to subject of the first part that is 'letters written'.

"
occasionally, when it is completely unambiguous, "which" can refer to a whole NOUN PHRASE that immediately precedes the comma.
in this case, this noun phrase is "X's letters to Y". (note that this noun phrase, as a unit, does immediately precede the comma.)

also, note the complete lack of grammatical ambiguity: "which" can't refer to dickinson, who is a person, and it's also followed by a plural verb. both of these pieces of evidence point to the noun phrase "X's letters to Y".

--

here's the basic summary:
if you have "X of Y, which..."
then:
* if Y works as the antecedent of "which", then "which" should stand for Y.
* if Y doesn't work as the antecedent, but "X of Y" DOES work, then "which" can stand for "X of Y"....."

Also, use of participle 'outnumbering' is not required here....it's not the period over which the letters were written that outnumber but it is the letters that outnumber letters to anyone else.

"...using a present participle phrase to express the (direct/indirect) result of the preceding clause is not allowed when the preceding clause is in a passive voice...."
--> from manhattan

Verbal is full of exceptions...
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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05 Nov 2010, 00:19
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Let us appreciate, that the gist of the passage is that Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan outnumber Emily’s letters to any one else (even today-so we use the present tense verb - outnumber) and the writing of the letters over some period is just an incidental factor to the main action. If you remove the parenthetical and inessential content, then the main purpose will pop up. This will facilitate dropping all the choices containing – outnumbering i.e A ,C and D

Between B and E, B is awful with out a conjunction to connect the verb - outnumber -with the first part of the passage, turning the sentence into a run-on. E is the choice.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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15 Jun 2012, 21:02
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May I butt in once again on this vexed question of the touch rule of the relative pronoun ‘which?’

First thing is that the intent of this text is to highlight primarily Dickinson’s letters to Susan outnumber her letters to anyone else. That they were written during a certain period is just a modifier, not very essential to the core. That is the reason that, writing and ending, which are addendums, need not parallel the primary action outnumber. In the context of understanding this subtlety of meaning, this passage is even more relevant to current thinking of GMAT.

Now to the relative pronoun ‘which”. What can ‘which’ refer to in choices D and E.? As per bare theory, it should refer to Dickinson who is a human and hence the use of ‘which’ is outrightly wrong. Secondly, the plural verb points out to some plural subject, and letters is the only plural that can antecede ‘which’. The prepositional phrase namely to Susan Huntington Dickinson is an essential modifier of the letters and therefore we are required to carry it along with the subject.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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23 Jul 2013, 22:20
1
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
is the participle is A, modifying 1886? that is my 1st question. Someone please answer who is sure of it

Definitely not "1886" (and I am sure about it:)). In this case, it is modifying the entire clause, but the meaning is not making sense. The fact that letters "over a period of time", is not in anyway related to the fact that those letters outnumbered Emily Dickinson’s letters to anyone else.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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23 Jul 2013, 22:58
1. Participle does modify the attached noun, isn't it? So in this case if we try to assume that it is modifying 1886 thus providing a time frame how would that be wrong??
2. participle can also modify subject/verb/clause , it has the flexibility. correct? then can we say it is modifying letters?
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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24 Jul 2013, 00:11
1
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
1. Participle does modify the attached noun, isn't it? So in this case if we try to assume that it is modifying 1886 thus providing a time frame how would that be wrong??
2. participle can also modify subject/verb/clause , it has the flexibility. correct? then can we say it is modifying letters?

Oh no. The rules for participles are not that simplistic. As you would perhaps know, participial phrases (and not participles themselves) that appear at the beginning of the sentence modify the word immediately next to it. For example:

Here, the participle is "preparing" modifies "WaterFlowsUp.

The usage of participles is not just about what they are modifying. There should be a "direct and simultaneous" effect that should be attributed to participles used towards end of the sentences. This is where A fails.

WaterFlowsUp wrote:
@ Ashish,
Could you please write a small doc explaining the participial phrases that is separated by a comma and are at the end? It would immensely useful for people like me getting stuck at something very basic.
Tons of thanks for the help

Well, as I mentioned in my post, participial phrases (specifically present participial phrases) preceded by a comma towards the end of the sentence should express "direct and simultaneous" effect that should be attributed to the subject of the immediate preceding clause.

The reason "direct and simultaneous" effect is important, is because, for example, the following option in one of the GMATPrep questions is incorrect, because drawing solid conclusions is not "direct and simultaneous" effect of the previous clause.

Neuroscientists have amassed a wealth of knowledge over the past twenty years about the brain and its development from birth to adulthood, now drawing solid conclusions about how the human brain grows and how babies acquire language.

Not sure there is a lot more to it than this, to merit a "doc" : )

WaterFlowsUp wrote:
@ Ashish,
Could you please write a small doc explaining the participial phrases that is separated by a comma and are at the end? It would immensely useful for people like me getting stuck at something very basic.
Tons of thanks for the help

Hi WaterFlowsUp,

Let me try to explain the function of “verb-ing modifiers” when preceded by a comma.

When a “verb-ing modifier” appears after a clause and is preceded by a comma, then it modifies the action of the preceding clause. It modifies the action of the preceding clause in two ways:
1. By presenting the HOW aspect of the preceding action
2. By presenting the result of the preceding action

Now let’s analyze the usage of comma + outnumbering… in the official sentence.

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

So ED wrote letters to SHD. Comma + outnumbering… modifies the preceding action “were written”. Since this modifier has two functions, let’s see which one fits here.
ED’s letters were written to SHAD by outnumbering her letters to anyone else. This modification suggests that ED wrote letters to SHD by outnumbering her letters to anyone else. This seems to be an action done deliberately. But this is not logical.

Now let’s check the second usage. ED’s letters were written SHD and as a result of this action, the letters outnumbers ED’s letters to anyone else. Do we really have a cause-effect here? Certainly not. None of the functions done by the comma + verb-ing modifier makes sense in this sentence. This is the reason why Choice A is incorrect.

You may read the following articles to know more about the comma + verb-ing modifiers:

http://gmatclub.com/forum/usage-of-verb ... 35220.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/verb-ing-modi ... 35567.html
http://gmatclub.com/forum/verb-ed-modif ... 25611.html

Also, this concept is covered in our Free Concepts. You can register on e-gmat for free and access this concepts along with many others. All these concepts have pre-assessment and post assessment quizzes through which you can gauge your knowledge of these concepts. So click on the “free trial” button and start learning for free.

Thanks.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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24 Jul 2013, 06:51
8
8
WaterFlowsUp wrote:
@ Ashish,
Could you please write a small doc explaining the participial phrases that is separated by a comma and are at the end? It would immensely useful for people like me getting stuck at something very basic.
Tons of thanks for the help

Hi WaterFlowsUp,

Let me try to explain the function of “verb-ing modifiers” when preceded by a comma.

When a “verb-ing modifier” appears after a clause and is preceded by a comma, then it modifies the action of the preceding clause. It modifies the action of the preceding clause in two ways:
1. By presenting the HOW aspect of the preceding action
2. By presenting the result of the preceding action

Now let’s analyze the usage of comma + outnumbering… in the official sentence.

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

So ED wrote letters to SHD. Comma + outnumbering… modifies the preceding action “were written”. Since this modifier has two functions, let’s see which one fits here.
ED’s letters were written to SHAD by outnumbering her letters to anyone else. This modification suggests that ED wrote letters to SHD by outnumbering her letters to anyone else. This seems to be an action done deliberately. But this is not logical.

Now let’s check the second usage. ED’s letters were written SHD and as a result of this action, the letters outnumbers ED’s letters to anyone else. Do we really have a cause-effect here? Certainly not. None of the functions done by the comma + verb-ing modifier makes sense in this sentence. This is the reason why Choice A is incorrect.

You may read the following articles to know more about the comma + verb-ing modifiers:

usage-of-verb-ing-modifiers-135220.html
verb-ing-modifiers-part-2-in-our-first-article-on-verb-ing-135567.html
verb-ed-modifiers-vs-verb-ing-modifiers-125611.html

Also, this concept is covered in our Free Concepts. You can register on e-gmat for free and access this concepts along with many others. All these concepts have pre-assessment and post assessment quizzes through which you can gauge your knowledge of these concepts. So click on the “free trial” button and start learning for free.

Thanks.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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25 Nov 2013, 03:30
1
karanthakurani wrote:
Hi Egmat,

Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

here in choice A 'outnumbering her letters to anyone else' is acting as verbing modifier and modifying the previous clause 'Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written....' still the choice A is wrong.
Also outnumbering makes sense with letters.
OG says it is unclear what outnumbering refers to. Please highlight on this.

Thanks,
Karan

Hi Karan,

Thank you for posting your query here.

Choice A is incorrect because of modifier error. Let us see the reason behind it.

Note that "outnumbering her letters to anyone else" should modify the letters but its placement is such that it appears to modify the preceding clause.

Notice that comma + verb-ing modify the preceding clause. And this modification does not make sense here. This is because it was not because the letters were written in the specified period that these letters outnumbered the other set of letters.

In fact these two actions - were written and outnumber are really two different characteristics of the letters.

Lets consider an example sentence:

The film was shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeding expectations of the producers.

This sentence is incorrect since the verb-ing modifier appears to modify preceding clause and in this sentence this modification does not make sense.The fact that the film was shot in a small town did not really lead to exceeding the expectations of the producers.

The correct sentence is:

The film, shot in a small town of Guthernberg, exceeded the expectations of the producers.

The sentence simply states a fact that this film exceeded the expectations. It does not provide any reasoning for the same.

The film received significant critical acclaim, exceeding the expectations of the producers.

This sentence is correct. In this sentence, the verb-ing modifier makes complete sense with the preceding clause. The expectations of the producers were exceeded by virtue of the film receiving significant critical acclaim.

Hope this helps

Regards,
Krishna
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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18 Feb 2014, 10:12
3
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jrashish wrote:
marine wrote:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering her letters to anyone else.

(A) Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumbering
(B) Dickinson were written over a period that begins a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ended shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber
(C) Dickinson, written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and that ends shortly before Emily’s death in 1886 and outnumbering
(D) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother, ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, and outnumbering
(E) Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber

pl review my analysis.

Q. Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington
Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few
years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and
ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886,
outnumbering her letters to anyone else

Meaning
ED wrote letters to SH over a period of time
Started before Susan marriage and ended before Emily`s death

Error Analysis
1) Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington
Dickinson were written over a period beginning a few
years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and
ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886,
outnumbering her letters to anyone else

The sentence has only one clause.
S-V is correct
V is correctly placed in past tense (passive voice-simple past)
Parallelism is correct.... beginning and ending
Pronoun...her refers correctly to Emily
Meaning is clear
idioms...none
modifiers...beginning and ending correctly modifies period
....outnumbering also correctly adds information to the preceding clause

POE
A is correct
B & C parallelism issue
D fragment
E placement of which is not next to letters

I was confused b/w A & E, but for the stated reason selected A.

I don`t find any grammatical error in A.

Pl clarify

Dear Ashish,

First, let's address the reason that you eliminated option E. Logically, "which" can only refer to "letters" here, and not to "Susan Huntington Dickinson" (since she's a person and "which" can't refer to people). Since the logical antecedent is clear, "which" doesn't need to be placed right next to "letters".

Second, option A can be eliminated in two ways: from the standpoint of meaning, and from that of grammar. The first is the explanation given in the OG. If I were to summarize the main point of this sentence, I'd say: "Emily Dickinson wrote more letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson than she wrote to anyone else." The period in which the letters were written is secondary to the main point of the sentence. In option A, "outnumber" is not even a verb: it's a verb-ing modifier. It doesn't make much sense to say that the main point of the sentence is to tell us when the letters were written.

Also, if you're unable to decide what the main point of the sentence is, you can apply the rules about verb-ing modifiers to this question. A verb-ing modifier placed after a comma either describes the preceding action or presents a result of the preceding action. The latter option is clearly ruled out in this case, so we're left with the former. Does "outnumbering" describe "were written"? It doesn't. The fact that the letters were written during a specific period isn't logically related to the fact that the letters outnumber Dickinson's letters to anyone else. So, the verb-ing modifier "outnumbering" doesn't make sense here. We clearly need the verb "outnumber" in the correct answer.

I hope this helps to clarify your doubt.

Regards,
Meghna
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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02 Aug 2014, 15:45
Hi Deepak,

I totally get that there is a meaning error in A - the verb-ing, separated by comma, in no way presents result or in any way describes the preceding clause. However, what I am trying to figure is how the main clause in question becomes the modifier (which is usually an fyi thingy) in the correct answer E, while the modifier becomes the main clause?

I think meghna mentioned, in the link that you redirected to, that the idea 'SD's letters to ED outnumbered her letters to anyone else' is the main idea and the time frame during which she wrote the letters is just an additional info. However, the construction of the original question says otherwise.

Can you please help me understand why the time frame during which the letter were written is not the main idea of the sentence? For example, if the sentence were in a history text book and time frame was critical to make sense then it would be totally justified as the main clause, and the fact that those letters outnumbered any other be a modifier or a subordinate clause.

Thanks,
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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15 Sep 2014, 02:53
Hi Deepak,

I totally get that there is a meaning error in A - the verb-ing, separated by comma, in no way presents result or in any way describes the preceding clause. However, what I am trying to figure is how the main clause in question becomes the modifier (which is usually an fyi thingy) in the correct answer E, while the modifier becomes the main clause?

I think meghna mentioned, in the link that you redirected to, that the idea 'SD's letters to ED outnumbered her letters to anyone else' is the main idea and the time frame during which she wrote the letters is just an additional info. However, the construction of the original question says otherwise.

Can you please help me understand why the time frame during which the letter were written is not the main idea of the sentence? For example, if the sentence were in a history text book and time frame was critical to make sense then it would be totally justified as the main clause, and the fact that those letters outnumbered any other be a modifier or a subordinate clause.

Thanks,

Thank you for posting your query here.

In the given sentence we have a concrete grammatical error in option A as you have already understood. So, we can reject choice A based on this error only. Also, if we consider the two pieces of information conveyed by the sentence:

1. ED wrote letters to SHD over a period beginning a few years before SHD's marriage to ED's brother and ending shortly before ED's death in 1886.
2. The letters written by ED to SHD outnumber her letters to anyone else.

So, the subject of the discussion here is ED's letters to SHD. Since the action of writing these letters is not a historical event we know that the main point of the sentence is the second one. Also as stated in OG, choice A overemphasizes on the period in which these letters were written. Note that, when there is an option available that conveys the intended meaning of the sentence better than the original sentence, then we can select the option even if there seems to be a change in meaning.

Hope this helps!
Regards,
Deepak
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written  [#permalink]

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12 Jan 2016, 16:20
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In a verb+ ing modifier preceded by a comma, there may not be always a cause and effect phenomenon. It may be just as coincidental happening. See for instance,
Tom went all out to help the community, taking care of his own family’s welfare at the same time. – Here one cannot pick a cause and effect relationship, as the second action is coincidental and not a result.
Therefore, your statement that ED wrote letters, outnumbering her letters to anyone else, may be acceptable as an indicative statement.
However, in the case of the original topic, I feel the setting is different. Ed did not write those letters, because she wanted to win a letter-writing contest nor because she wanted to create a record for herself. It is in this context, that one can realize import of the modifier, “written over a period of … before ED’s death in 1886”. We can appreciate that the letters outnumbered her letters to anyone else, because here letters to SHD were written over a long period.
Therefore, your example “Ed wrote letters to SHD, outnumbering’ is technically ok;

But, in the original topic writing is not the core action. The main intent of the passage is the outnumbering. That is the reason why, the writing is relegated to a modifier and the correct choice takes ‘outnumber’ as the main verb.
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Re: Emily Dickinson's letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson were written   [#permalink] 12 Jan 2016, 16:20

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