Inside the Sausage Factory: Sentence Correction (5 of 6)

Last time we — or really, I — talked about varying your answer choices to give people headaches when they read your excellent GMAT-style questions.  This time, I want to go the other way:  making them more difficult by making them more similar.

3.  Make subtle changes to create your incorrect answer choices.  That is to say, don’t make the wrong choices so obviously wrong, so that readers need to spend more time in analysis differentiating your options.  Sometimes an extremely wordy answer or ridiculously incorrect idiom leaps off the page (or screen) for the test-taker; these are easy to eliminate.  Small differences mean more attention must be paid to every piece — make your friends or fans or whoever is reading your creations squirm and say the answers to themselves a few times before they’re sure!

Companies label light bulbs in lumens; the higher the lumens on the label, the more visible light will be radiated by the bulb.
A. the higher the lumens on the label, the more
B. the more lumen on the label, the more
C. higher the lumens on the label, the more
D. the higher the lumens on the label, more
E. the higher lumens on the label, the more

The idiom the X-er, the Y-er is an odd-but-productive idiom in English, and one you should be familiar with for the test (after all, it’s in our model question from the Official Guide to the test).  I say it’s odd because you see it in some set phrases in English, such as the more things change, the more things stay the same or the bigger they come, the harder they fall; the verb sometimes goes away entirely, as in the more, the merrier. I say it’s “productive” because it can still be used to make new sentences, as evidenced by our OG sentences and my variations on it.

Like many idioms, though, you can “break” them by leaving even one word out, turning idiomatic English into a wrong answer choice.  This is how writing mistakes happen in real life!  Choice A is the correct one here (don’t forget that A can be right!).  Choice B has the right format and the correct parallelism, but leaves the critical -s off of the units of measure.  Units of measure are countable, while the thing measured typically isn’t (you have many dollars in your pocket, but just the singular money).  Choice C leaves out poor little the and abandons the parallelism and correctitude of the idiom with it; Choice D does the same with the the of the second half.  Choice E is possibly the most fiendish; because we aren’t counting specific lumens, only talking about the rating measurement on a given label, we use a the in front of the unit name.  Without it, the sentence is incorrect.

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