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This rather advanced grammatical structure is very common on the GRE. (Don’t confuse “apposition” with “opposition”: they have opposite meanings.)


Words or phrases in apposition are placed next to each other, and the second word or phrase defines, clarifies, or gives evidence to the first word or phrase. The second word or phrase will be set off from the first by a comma, semicolon, hyphen, or parentheses.


HINT: If a comma is not followed by a linking word—such as and, for, yet —then the following phrase is probably appositional.


Identifying an appositional structure can greatly simplify a sentence completion problem, since the appositional word, phrase, or clause will define the missing word.




His novels are ________; he uses a long circumlocution when a direct coupling of a simple subject and verb would be best.




The sentence has no linking words (such as because, although, etc.). Hence, the phrase following the semicolon is in apposition to the missing word—it defines or further clarifies the missing word. Now, writing filled with circumlocutions is aptly described as “wordy” or prolix.




Robert Williams’ style of writing has an air of ________: just when you think the story line is predictable, he suddenly takes a different direction. Although this is often the mark of a beginner, Williams pulls it off masterfully.




There is no connecting word following the colon. Hence, the description, “just when you think the story line is predictable, he suddenly takes a different direction,” defines the missing word. Now, something that is unpredictable because it’s continually changing direction is capricious. Thus, the answer is “capriciousness.”

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