As I’ve written about before, one very helpful time and energy saving strategy on Fixing Sentences is to always start by looking at the shortest answer. Since one of the things that the SAT Writing section tests is your ability to eliminate wordy and awkward constructions, it follows logically that shorter answers are typically more likely than longer ones to be correct. Identifying the shortest answer, however, is not always as straightforward as it might seem.
Here why: One of the subtler tricks that the College Board likes to play involves altering the spacing of answer choices on the first line so that the various options appear closer to one another in length than they actually are. As a result, the shortest answer often appears to be virtually the same length as a substantially longer answer.
Traveling through Yosemite, the scenery of waterfalls
and granite peaks, which we photographed, was
(A) the scenery of waterfalls and granite peaks, which
we photographed, was beautiful
(B) the waterfalls and granite peaks were the beautiful
scenery we photographed
(C) we photographed the beautiful scenery of
waterfalls and granite peaks
(D) we photographed the scenery of waterfalls and
granite peaks, being beautiful
(E) what we photographed was the beautiful scenery
of waterfalls and granite peaks
All the answers look about the same, right? But actually they’re not. Look again at choice (C). Another word or two could easily fit on the top line, but it’s been truncated quite substantially so that the length of the second line will appear equal to the second line of the other answers. Even though (C), the correct answer, is only a word or two shorter than some of the other answer, it takes up a lot less space — and ETS doesn’t want that difference to be too obvious.
So when you’re looking for the shortest option, don’t just compare the ends of the answers — look at the first line, and you may be surprised at just how much of a variation there actually.