LSAT 35 – Section 4 – Question 03

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT35 S4 Q03
Most strongly supported +MSS
+Easiest 144.86 +SubsectionEasier

Kevin’s explanation

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Which one of the following statements is most strongly supported by the information above?

This is a Most Strongly Supported question. That means the correct answer will be strongly supported by the stimulus. The wrong answers will not have strong support from the stimulus.

In speech, when words or sentences are ambiguous, gesture and tone of voice are used to indicate the intended meaning.

When we’re talking, and a word or statement is ambiguous, we use things like gesture and tone of voice to help convey meaning. How do you say “Yeah, right,” but in a sarcastic way to mean “No, are you crazy?” Through your tone of voice, and maybe some movement of your head.

Writers, of course, cannot use gesture or tone of voice and must rely instead on style; the reader detects the writer’s intention from the arrangement of words and sentences.

This statement is analogous to the first statement about speech. When it comes to writing, an author has a way to convey the intended meaning when a word of sentence is ambiguous – style, or in other words, the “arrangement of words and sentences.” How do you write, “Yeah, right,” but in a sarcastic way to mean “No, are you crazy?” Maybe something like this: Yeah. Right.

We’re looking for an answer that is strongly supported by the stimulus. Since the stimulus started with the point about speech, and ended with an analogy to writing, I have a slight suspicion that the answer will be about writing, since the LSAT likes to test whether we understand the point of an analogy. But I’m mostly going in with an open mind.

Answer Choice (A) The primary function of style in writing is to augment the literal meanings of the words and sentences used.

The “primary” function? We don’t know the main function of style. We know that one function is to convey an intended meaning of a writer. But that doesn’t mean it’s the main function. This is a classic type of wrong answer – taking something that we know to be one factor and calling it the primary, main, or only factor.

Correct Answer Choice (B) The intended meaning of a piece of writing is indicated in part by the writer’s arrangement of words and sentences.

This is supported by the last sentence – the writer relies on “style” to convey meaning. The reference to “arrangement of words and sentences” is an elaboration of what the author of the stimulus means by “style.”

Some people don’t like this answer because of the phrase “in part.” They take issue with that phrase because the stimulus doesn’t indicate that there are other pieces besides style that go into intended meaning.

If that’s what you’re thinking, you might be overlooking something fairly obvious, though perhaps subtle. What else, besides the arrangement of words and sentences, convey meaning in writing? Surely the words themselves. The words themselves and their arrangement both convey meaning. Hence, meaning is “in part” conveyed by the arrangement of words.

If that still doesn’t convince you, then consider these two points.

First, we’re just looking for an answer that has strong support. It doesn’t have to be 100% proven true by the stimulus.

Second, are you sure that “in part” absolutely means that there must be other pieces to the intended meaning besides style? The phrase “in part” can often be read with an implicit “at least” before it – “at least in part.” For example:

The wedding was in part a disaster since the groom’s ex-girlfriend was a surprise bridesmaid.

Is that statement asserting that there were other parts of the wedding that were not a disaster? Or is it consistent with the whole wedding being a disaster?

Great white sharks are dangerous in part because they can bite you and kill you.

Is that statement asserting that there must be other parts to why great white sharks are dangerous besides the biting and killing? Or is this statement consistent with the idea that biting and killing is the entirety of what makes great white sharks dangerous?

I’m not saying there’s one right or wrong answer to these questions. But keep in mind that sometimes writers use language that’s ambiguous. The LSAT is asking us to recognize that ambiguity and to consider multiple interpretations. If you don’t notice and accept that ambiguity, you’re getting punished for it and losing points. (This happens in law school exams, too. You’ll learn about this one day.)

Answer Choice (C) It is easier for a listener to detect the tone of a speaker than for a reader to detect the style of a writer.

How do we know what’s easier? The stimulus told us what speakers do, and it told us what writers do. But there was never any relative comparison between speakers and writers, or listeners and readers.

Answer Choice (D) A writer’s intention will always be interpreted differently by different readers.

Why can’t readers sometimes have the same interpretation? We do know that when writing is ambiguous there can be multiple interpretations. But couldn’t you interpret the language in the same way as a friend does, even if someone else disagrees with you? And what if the writer doesn’t use any ambiguous language in the first place? Then we don’t have any reason to think there would be multiple interpretations.

Answer Choice (E) The writer’s arrangement of words and sentences completely determines the aesthetic value of his or her writing.

Aesthetic value refers to something like the artistic value of the writing. But we don’t know the “value” of anything from the stimulus. We’re simply told about conveying intended meanings – this doesn’t involve a value judgment about the quality or worth of writing.

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