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[...] in the paper, there happens to be an entire section that is dedicated to creative writing. The section usually consists of 3-4 options for a creative writing task. Each option gives a topic/title to write either a descriptive essay, argumentative essay, or narrative essay on. Our teacher advises us to always choose writing a story (which would mean picking the narrative essay option), as apparently it's easier to pull more marks by virtue of the fact that you have a narrative at all.

I feel that using a comparative adjective twice here had been wrong.

[...] it's easier to pull more marks [...]

And can you "pull" marks? Is it correct phrasing?

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I have never heard the phrase 'to pull marks' before, however, its meaning is perfectly clear within the context of the sample paragraph, i.e., to use a legitimate strategy in an exam, a test or similar that will result in a higher mark being obtained. I would not be surprised if this phrase, or something very similar, is used in many academic institutions.

I have no problem with the use of the two comparatives in the sample paragraph. In my reading each of the two comparative adjectives is describing a different noun, and is not much different than saying, 'the grass was greener, the sky bluer'. If the writer had written, 'it's more easier to pull marks' then I would have agreed with your reservations. However, this article from Yale University (Double Comparatives) even gave me pause to reassess my views with regards to (at least) some double comparatives.


I would have written the sample paragraph like this:

[...] in the paper, there is an entire section dedicated to creative writing. This section usually consists of 3-4 options for a creative writing task, in each of which the student is required to write either a descriptive essay, argumentative essay, or narrative essay on a given topic/title. Our teacher advised us to always select the narrative essay option, as it is easier to pull more marks when you have a story to tell.

Note: In the additional sentence: 'I feel that using a comparative adjective twice here had been wrong', the use of the past perfect ('had been') is incorrect. It would be better to replace it with the simple perfect 'was'. The past perfect is used to indicate an action/event in the past that occurred before a different action/event in the past, e.g. 'I had just eaten dinner when the phone rang'.

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  • But how about the structure of the sentences in general? Do they feel stilted and un-idiomatic to you in any way? I think it's obvious that it was written by a non-native speaker. – Soha Farhin Pine Sep 25 '18 at 7:27
  • @Soha Farhin Pine The sample sentence is generally quite good; there are a few problems, but I have seen much worse writing from native English speakers. I have rewritten the sample paragraph and added it to my answer. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding my changes. – James Sep 25 '18 at 12:56
  • But I don't think your revision is perfect either. You omitted words&phrases like "apparently" and "happens to", which IMO aren't redundant. They might not contribute a lot to the actual information, but they do add subtle overtones that I don't think you should just cut out completely. "Apparently" shows that he/she isn't completely convinced of the teacher's words or at least implies that s/he doesn't take every word from him to heart. "Happens to" --- well, that the section was there by random chance. Or maybe she is making fun of how that makes her life harder. – Soha Farhin Pine Sep 25 '18 at 13:26
  • Would "had been" been correct if the writer of the sentence had been the one asking this? – Soha Farhin Pine Sep 25 '18 at 15:25
  • My apologies if you were the author of the sample paragraph. I accept your right to use whatever words you want to. I was not sure if 'apparently' was part of what the teacher said, or it was your opinion of what the teacher said. 'Apparently' can be ambiguous in use, meaning anything from 'almost certainly true, but still unconfirmed' to 'it is rumoured but I don't really believe it'. Further, 'apparently' can be used sarcastically to mean the exact opposite of whatever the speaker is saying. In oral communication its intended meaning is often conveyed by the intonation used by the speaker. – James Sep 26 '18 at 16:46
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Using two comparatives is not uncommon, and while it can be unclear, and is for that reason to be avoided, it is not ungrammatical:

It's easier to run faster in running shoes than boots.

The statement is a bit elliptical: running shoes have the edge over boots in helping you to increase your speed when running. Their differences become more apparent the faster you run.

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