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Dear Mitch,

The SAT test is the day after tomorrow, so could you please continue with the tricks for the writing section, especially the multiple choice questions as you have been doing?

Thanks a totally lot,

Marsten. B. Permanenski


Dear Marsten B. Permanenski,

Of course!

Here is a concept that they seem to like on the SAT multiple choice part of the writing section:

Which of the following two choices is correct, which is incorrect, or are they both incorrect or both correct with different meanings?

1) His brother, John, is going to join us on our fishing trip.

2) His brother John is going to join us on our fishing trip. 

ANSWER: They are both correct grammaticaly, though they convey different types of information.  The first example, which has "John" set off by commas, indicates that the character referred to by the possessive prounoun "his" has only one relevant brother, which the reader or listener to the spoken statement knows, and the addition of the gentleman's name ("John") is unecesssary but is there to serve as a reminder of the only possible brother's name.

The second example, which has no commas setting off the name "John", indicates that the the character who we only know from the possessive pronoun "his," has more than one brother, and the name "John" indicates to the reader of the statement (or the listener of the spoken statement) exactly which brother will be joining them (as opposed to one of 'his' other brothers, such as, for example, 'Mark' or 'Thomas'.) So we now know that the brother named "John" will be the one scheduled to join the crowd on their fishing voyage.

Hope this helps,