Test Your Grammar IQ

Who doesn’t relish a challenge, especially when it comes to dependent clauses, parallelism and collective nouns? OK, so that’s a stretch, but go with it. Find the errors in the sentences below and I’ll send you a fabulous prize. Not really, but what have you got to lose?

  • Neither an e-mail or a phone call to the family were returned immediately.

“Neither” is a correlative conjunction, which means it always pairs with “nor.” I also threw in an agreement trick. “Were” is incorrect – it should be “was.” Corrected, the sentence is, “Neither an e-mail nor a phone call to the family was returned.”

  • Marketers say they will devote 41 percent of their 2010 budgets to TV advertising, compared to 51 percent two years ago.

“Compared to” and “compared with” are not interchangeable. Use “compared to” when comparing two or more items that are similar. For example, “She compared her work for the disabled sailors’ organization to her efforts to connect service dogs with wheelchair-bound adults.” Use “compared with” when juxtaposing two or more items to illustrate similarities or differences. The example I provided above should have used, “compared with.”

  • The car moved backwards into oncoming traffic and the impact was really loud.

Although you might think about changing “impact” since incorrect use of the word is a big peeve for me, I threw that in to trip you up. “Backwards” should be “backward.”

  • The way it looks now, he will not be traveling to see his sister since he doesn’t have any money.

I threw this one in as an example of bloat. There’s no reason to write, “he will not be traveling to.”  Instead, write, “The way it looks now, he will not visit his sister because he doesn’t have any money.” Succinct is usually better.

  • The general consensus is that we should close the store next year.

“General consensus” is redundant.

  • If bloggers could figure out a way to monetize their writing, they would be better able to make a living.

Words that end in “ize” are jargon. Please eliminate “monetize,” “monetization” and the like from your copy. Instead, use “revenue,” “make money” or “profit from.”

How did you do? Even if you missed some of these, don’t give up on grammar, style and punctuation. By investing a little time and effort into learning and breaking bad habits, you’ll get better. I’m sorry I don’t have a giveaway, but your reward will be better business communications – and that can only help your company.

About Dawn

Dawn is the senior editor at The Simons Group. As a grammar queen, she'd rather lose her wallet than misplace an apostrophe. Fellow copy ninjas unite -- you have an ally.

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