A Writing Skills Checkup

Here’s a short quiz about some common writing mistakes. Scroll down for the answers.  (But do try the quiz yourself first!) Warning: some sentences have two mistakes; others have none.

1. Langford said nothing at first, then she slowly told me about the fight.

2. Carlson admitted he was quick to loose his temper.

3. The Smith’s refused to answer my questions about the screaming there neighbors heard.

4. Wiley pointed to back yard and said, “In the shed.”

5. Barton said that the purse was her’s, and she wasn’t going to give it to Farrell.

6. The department is preparing for its first accreditation visit.

Here are the answers:

X  1. Langford said nothing at first. Then she slowly told me about the fight.  (Use a period and a capital letter. You can’t join two sentences with then.)

X  2. Carlson admitted he was quick to lose his temper.  (Loose means “not tight,” and it rhymes with moose. The word needed here is lose.)

X  3.The Smiths refused to answer my questions about the screaming their neighbors heard.  (The Smiths don’t own anything in this sentence. Omit the apostrophe: Smiths is correct. And be careful not to confuse there/they’re/their. This sentence requires their.)

✓ 4. Wiley pointed to back yard and said, “In the shed.”  CORRECT (In the US, periods and commas always go inside quotation marks.)

X 5. Barton said that the purse was hers, and she wasn’t going to give it to Farrell.  (Don’t use an apostrophe with his, hers, ours, yours, and theirs.)

✓ 6. The department is preparing for its first accreditation visit.  CORRECT (There’s no apostrophe in its. Here’s how to tell: try plugging his into the sentence.  “The department is preparing for his first accreditation visit.” It’s – with an apostrophe – means it is: “I think it’s time to leave.”)

How did you do? And – more important – did you catch any errors that tend to slip into your reports?

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