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Simplifying Complex Sentences

Chris Lele
Lesson by Chris Lele
Magoosh Expert
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OK, we have here a very long sentence. For the most part, ETS people who write the GRE, they do not want you to read and make sense of every single word, starting here with 'throughout' and going all the way down to a 'single period'.

Notice that, in and of itself, this is five lines, or at least four and a half lines, which is very long. So what do they want you to do? Well, in the previous video, we learned about breaking down a sentence.

That is often very important, however, what is equally really important is to know when to get rid of the extra words, what I call verbiage. So good word to know, verbiage.

What are we going to do with verbiage, the extra words? We're going to get rid of the verbiage. So let's read the sentence and see what the verbiage is. So first off, you want to ignore the names, facts, and figures. We have this person "throughout their authorial career", they wrote books such as "The Sound and Fury", and then their latest, "r their last novel, the 'Pulitzer prize winning work, The Reivers".

Look at all facts, these figures, names of books. Finally, we get to the author himself, William Faulkner. But you know what? None of that, nothing. Not a single word is important. It could be anyone. We are looking for what?

We are looking for the clue. We are honing in on it. Where is it, in this mess of words, in our verbiage swamp? Well, we get to the point where he shunned. That's the first important word we have to know. To shun is it to avoid something.

He avoided certain sentences. What sort of sentences? Well, he would sometimes write an entire page without using a single period. Really, those are some pretty long sentences. Imagine, no period, just one long sentence going on with the entire page. Maybe you have a lot of semicolons, but no full stop.

So we know that he likes to use very long sentences, but the word in the blank is not long because of the word shunt. He did not avoid long sentences. He avoided short sentences. Notice, I again, I am putting in my own word, and then matching that word with the answer choices.

Which word means short? Well, the very first word. If something is concise, it is to the point. That definitely means short, and just like that, I'm able to get to the answer without having to wade through again the morass of words above.

Just like that, there's my answer. Of course, there are a couple of full of trap answers here, as well. People may think, "Hey, look at 'B', it's vague. His work must be vague. His writing is vague because he uses such long sentences", but again, he's not necessarily avoiding that.

Is he avoiding a rambling style? Well, it sounds like he's using a long and rambling style, so again, knowing the shunned is important. And of course, nothing in here is showing up that it's controversial. And labyrinthine.

Sounds like a labyrinth, which is a maze, a twisting maze. We know we simply want a word that means short. That word is concise, and just like that, we've broken down, or gotten through, all the verbiage, focused on the clue, and arrived at the correct answer.

OK, looks like we have another monstrous, mammoth sentence here. This one, wow, looks like it's going all the way up to five lines. So is that bad news? Well, not necessarily good news, but again, you see titles, you see names, not important.

Break it down, I don't care about the names of the works. Look, it's Friedrich Nietzsche is how you pronounce it, but that's also something that's a tongue twister. That's only going to slow you down. Here we go. It's very similar to the last sentence, or last text completions. Shunning a style, now we're "avoiding a _______ style".

So this time, we should definitely get it right. So what did he do? Well, "instead liberally employed" so he used. Employed means to use. Used "the use of aphorisms", so liberally "employed the use of aphorisms and pithy paragraphs".

So again, a lot of verbiage going on. We just have to know, what did any of these words mean? So if you don't know aphorisms or pithy, it could be a little bit difficult. Or could it? That's why. Don't despair. You want to read the entire sentence. "A style whose origins can be traced", again, we're talking about the style. What is the style? Its "origins can be traced to ancient texts". So what sort of style would he avoid then if he's copying an ancient style? Well, he would be avoiding a modern style. So again, we honed in on the clue. We broke down the sentence, really didn't need too much breaking down.

Here, we found more of the clues, but it was, where were the clues? You could have got hung up with the aphorism or could have gotten hung up with the pithy words maybe you don't know, but we found words we did know.

And then, we came up with our own word, which is modern, and now, we'll match this word with the answer choices. So terse, if something is terse, it's straight to the point.

We want modern, so that's gone. Now, there's controversial. If something is controversial or upsets a lot of people is not the same as modern. What about contemporary? Can something as contemporary of this time is modern, and just like that, you have the right answer.

Of course, unknown and proper neither mean modern. However, this is still a very difficult text completion because of the verbiage. For instance, aphorisms are short sayings. Well, what if you had stopped right there, and said, "Hey, short sayings.

So therefore that's a--we need a word that means short sayings. Oh, it must be terse", but again he avoided the style, instead liberally used the short thing. So he's not necessarily avoiding a terse style, he's using a terse style.

But that's not what this sentence is testing. It's testing the idea of ancient texts, so again, always read the entire sentence. Try to come up with your own word based on what you know. If you can't always come up with your words, you can sometimes match the clue. Here, we see the word ancient, and therefore, it's avoiding a certain style that would be the opposite of ancient, and so we get contemporary.

And therefore, we break through the verbiage and get the right answer.

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Text Completion - Overview