I’m grading essays for the Blogger SAT challenge. After grading five, with high scores! (Would my students be surprised to find that I graded higher than anyone else?), we were sent more SAT examples, along with reasons why the essays were given their numeric reward.
One of the things that bothered me about their essay which received a 6 is one of the reasons they gave for it being given a 6. Here is the sentence.
After years of introspection, of reading Shakespeare, The Bible, and textbooks, the man actually comes to despise the money he once sought; the money he signed away fifteen years of his life for.
They give this sentence as an example of skillful use of languge and variety in sentence structure. What’s the problem with this sentence?
First of all, the sentence ends in a preposition. That has been considered poor, if not incorrect, grammar for the entirety of the 20th century and, I would suppose, the first six of the 21st as well. It is easily fixed; “the money for which he signed away fifteen years of his life” isn’t unwieldy and makes it work.
Second, a semicolon (;) is basically used to separate either two complete sentences or a list with commas used within the items. In no grammar rule is it used to separate a complete sentence from a single explication of that sentence. I think that gramatically it is wrong. (Rules of semicolon usage can be found here.)
But this is one of their examples of the rich variety of language.
What does that say about their grading? It implies both an incomplete understanding of grammar and that similar errors are ignored.
I think the essay they gave a six had three excellent extended examples. It clearly addressed the question. But, at the least, it had non-standard grammar at least twice. What’s up with that?