Modifiers and Meaning in Sentence Correction

Let’s look at a Sentence Correction question that seems rather challenging at first:

Instead of buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for someone new to financial planning, real estate has become increasingly the choice of young people as a first investment.

A) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for someone new to financial planning, real estate has become increasingly the choice of young people

B) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for those new to financial planning, increasingly young people have shown a choice for real estate

C) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for someone new to financial planning, the choice of young people increasingly has become real estate

D) buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional investments for those new to financial planning, young people have increasingly chosen real estate

E) stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for those new to financial planning, young people have shown an increasing choice of real estate

This question is almost completely underlined, and many students get nervous when they see these. But fear not! What appears super-challenging at first, might actually be more straightforward than we think if we mentally delete the “which are…” modifier in the middle of the sentence.

It’s always nice when a long sentence openings with an -ing modifer like this, because then you can skip ahead to the comma to make sure that whatever follows can logically perform that action.

(A) “real estate” cannot “buy” stocks and bonds. Eliminate.
(B) “young people” could “buy” stocks and bonds. Keep.
(C) “the choice” cannot “buy” stocks and bonds. Eliminate.
(D) “young people” can “buy” stocks and bonds. Keep.
(E) different construction…Keep for now.

In (B), the adverb “increasingly” is oddly placed in front of the noun “young people.” Normally, I wouldn’t eliminate for something so petty, but (D) and (E) gives us two better choices, so you can assume the correct answer lies with them.

Let’s look at our Final Two and highlight the differences:

D) Instead of buying stocks and bonds, which are the conventional investments for those new to financial planning, young people have increasingly chosen real estate

E) Instead of stocks and bonds, which are the conventional approach for those new to financial planning, young people have shown an increasing choice of real estate

(E) is wordier and more awkward, but more important has a noun-verb issue. “Approach” is singular, but “stocks and bonds” are plural, and the sentence is using the plural “are.”

It has to be (D). Notice how (D) nicely places the adverb “increasingly” right next to its verb. This what the GMAT prefers, if possible. Modifiers are nice when they touch! :)