A Writing Test

rogersgeorge on March 22nd, 2017

Here are some sentences I found, all written by professionals, all on line, that contain mistakes or bad writing. Can you identify the things that need fixing or improving? I’m pretty sure that I have mentioned each type of mistake at least once before in The Writing Rag. I’ll make you a deal—you might win ten bucks!

Send me an email at curmudgeon@writing-rag.com listing your answers. I’ll use PayPal to send ten dollars to the email address of the first person who answers them all correctly. You have to give the reason why you answered the way you did for number 10.

Only about four people ever read this blog, so your odds are pretty good! I promise not to collect the addresses or use them for anything.

  1. “The technology,” he wrote, “is not limited to only aviation.”
  2. Best known of the two is Enrico Fermi, the Italian intellectual giant who escaped from fascist Italy to America after winning a Nobel Prize for his research in nuclear physics.
  3. On February 23, 1997, NBC broadcast the film in its three-and-a-half-hour entirety, uncut and uninterrupted by commercials, as per Spielberg’s request.
  4. Who do you think you match with?
  5. 1856   The Republican Party holds it’s first national meeting.  (© Ducksters.  I wasn’t going to embarrass them, but they put a copyright symbol on it. Used without permission)
  6.  It is now hoped that the system could be combined with the use of pheromones that lampreys use to attract mates.
  7. This weed includes the most vitamin A than all green leafy vegetables, which prevents cancer, and is abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids, so it effectively prevents heart diseases and stroke.
  8. It is more cost-effective by only utilizing more expensive authentication when warranted by the risk.
  9. It’s easier to implement than you may have thought.
  10. Sensitive personal data including cookies, API keys, and passwords has been leaked by web optimization giant Cloudflare.
  11. So, the Rangers are based out of Igloolik.
  12. So what does a potential new state of matter for the rest of us?
  13.  Indiana law explicitly forbids government employees such as the Governor to conduct politics on state accounts, so it’s credible to argue Pence had no other options.
  14. “The Church and State owes them all an apology,” she said.
  15. It stands in stark contrast with a pair of current cartoons by fairly mainstream conservative cartoonists that mock Democrats for being obsessed with the Russian connections.
  16. It was about 3 or 4 feet long, looked like a long piece of linguine (same color, similar width), except if you looked a little carefully, it was actually comprised of connected rhomboid like sections. [this one has two goofs, not counting that the 3 and 4 should be spelled out. Find both.]
  17. While China is beginning to assemble its own tunnel-boring machines, it still relies on critical, foreign-made components that its own industries can’t manufacture on its own. [first word should be “Although” or “Whereas,” but I’m looking for a different goof.]
  18. Clicking Refresh Catalog in the catalog, updates the usage information.
  19. The amount of tabs you have open at any one time has a direct impact on the performance of Chrome, as well as how much RAM the application consumes.
  20. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with.

There you have it! Good luck!


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Correctness 102

rogersgeorge on September 23rd, 2016

This is the second of two posts about my second rule of good writing: being correct. Part one was the last post, and rule 1 was two posts ago.

First this, from Looks Good on Paper:

Looks Good on Paper

If you know what a mobius strip is, you should be able to tell that this isn’t one! (I confess, it was the first thing I checked.)

The artist did this on purpose because he liked this look better, but if you’re explaining, get the facts right.

This kind of correctness is crucial: getting the facts right. Sometimes it’s tempting to guess, use hearsay, dramatize, exaggerate, or distort (like the comic); especially if what you write won’t affect you adversely if it’s wrong. But what about your integrity? Expository writers are responsible to tell the truth. And don’t make excuses like “nobody’s perfect.”

We lost the Mars Climate Orbiter because someone mixed metric and English units in the programming. Remember the play The Importance of being Earnest? (Spoiler:) The guy ended up changing his name to Earnest so it would be correct. How would you like the tires on a Boeing 767 fail on landing because the guy who wrote the maintenance manual accidentally reversed the digits in the tire pressure specification? Do you expect your bank to get the numbers in your account wrong? How about your credit score? The gist of that article is that credit reporting agencies don’t care as much as they ought about getting people’s histories right. Here are a few lines to get you started:

…It took me more than a dozen phone calls, the handiwork of a county court clerk and six weeks to solve the problem. And that was only after I contacted the company’s communications department as a journalist … According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, all credit-reporting agencies, are the three most-complained-about companies in America … since 2012, according to the bureau, there have been more than 158,000 complaints against the three agencies, 80 percent of which were about incorrect information on credit reports.

Indifference to being correct is unconscionable. True, nobody is perfect, but that’s not an excuse—it’s a call to action! Here are two ways to make sure you get the facts right:

  • Make someone who knows the facts check the writing. If not a human, check the source info. This, by the way, is why the people we call bean counters are so valuable. They like to check stuff.
  • Have someone who doesn’t know the facts try out your writing. This applies mainly to instructions. Have someone do what you wrote. If they goof, fix the writing.

Better hope they got the tire pressure right on that 767 when you land in Hawaii, eh?

PS. I ran into this “correct” mobius strip in Prickly City recently.

Prickly City

Prove that rule!

rogersgeorge on February 24th, 2014

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in the past, but I found a good example, and the idea is worth repeating. Besides, the guy who made the mistake (and he might have made it on purpose. He is, after all, literate.) is a worthwhile daily read. First, here’s the quote:

So, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to show you what is actually not the exception that proves the rule, because in this brilliant animated piece, Rina Piccolo not only does none of those things I object to, but she makes me laugh aloud several times and generally delivers not only a bravura performance on its own but a model of how to avoid undermining good cartooning in a cross-media interpretation:

The source is Mike Peterson’s Comic_strip_of_the_day.com for February 19, 2014. Mike and I are alike in that we both like to use comics to illustrate whatever point we want to make, though I generally limit myself to matters of writing, and his topics fare far farther. The mistake is the expression “the exception that proves the rule.”

To prove in the expression “proving a rule” is an old usage meaning to test, not show. You might remember this usage from the book of Malachi 3:10, where God says “Prove me now herewith…” about tithing.  (This, by the way is the only place in the Bible where God invites us to test Him.) You can find a few other examples of prove meaning to test in the King James Version, but that passage is the most famous.

So making an exception tests whether something is actually a rule, or merely a suggestion. Break the rule, and if you get into trouble for it, it’s a rule. If not, then it’s not.

My advice: If you’re going to make an allusion to an old idiom, use it correctly. Otherwise, use plain English.