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Quiz Answers!

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The quiz sentence is listed first, followed by its answer(s) and explanation.

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1. As a homeowner, repairs have just become too time-consuming for me.

1a. As a homeowner, I find repairs have just become too time-consuming for me. OR

1b. As a homeowner, Mary finds repairs have just become too time-consuming. OR

1c. I find repairs have just become too time-consuming for me, as a homeowner.

Explanation: Whenever you have an "as a ________" phrase, the next word must be who the "________" is. If the sentence is turned around (1c.) the "as a ________" explanation, if used, follows who it is (in this example, "me.")

2. Each 4-H member will have a chance to show their animal at the Fair.

2a. Each 4-H member will have a chance to show his or her animal at the Fair. OR

2b. (If all members are male:) Each 4-H member will have a chance to show his animal at the Fair. OR

2c. (If all members are female:) Each 4-H member will have a chance to show her animal at the Fair.

Explanation: In this case, the subject ("Each") is singular. If it's a mixed-gender group, or if you do not know the members' genders, use "his or her."

"Their" would be used only with a plural subject, i.e., "The members will show their animal at the Fair." (Note that in this example, we assume that all the members share one animal. If each member had his or her own animal, the sentence should be "The members will show their animals at the Fair.")


3. A selection of 3 entrees are available at the dinner.

3a. A selection of three entrees is available at the dinner. OR

3b. A selection of three entrees will be (was)(should be, etc.) available at the dinner. OR

3c. Three entrees are available at the dinner.

Explanation: There are two errors here: (1) The subject ("selection") is singular, and requires a singular verb. If the subject is plural (3c.) the verb should be plural. (2) Numbers nine and lower should be spelled out. Numbers 10 and higher are shown in Arabic numerals.

4. Athletes will have a chance to wear their uniform at the tournament.

Athletes will have a chance to wear their uniforms at the tournament.

Explanation: Although the original sentence is technically correct, it conjures up some interesting thoughts! The original sentence says that all of the athletes share one uniform. If each athlete has his or her own uniform, "uniforms" would be correct.
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5. One way to judge software is by installing it at your office to see if its making a difference in productivity.

5a. One way to judge software is by installing it at your office to see if it's making a difference in productivity. OR

5b. One way to judge software is by installing it at your office to see if it makes a difference in productivity.

Explanation: "It's" may well be the most commonly-misspelled word in the English language. "It's" means it is. "Its" is the possessive.

In example 5b., we have side-stepped the issue altogether, which is a reasonable technique when you are uncertain.


6. Make your United Way contribution by October 1, and John or myself will bake cookies for your team.

Make your United Way contribution by October 1, and John or I will bake cookies for your team.

Explanation: Two issues here: (1) When you have a "John or myself" type of construction, cover up each name, one at a time (i.e., "John or") and read the sentence. Clearly, "...and myself will bake cookies..." does not. (2) "Myself" is over-used. Use "myself" when you mean you will do something yourself, and not delegate it, or when you have a sentence like, "I see myself as..."

7. For you and I to make that decision, we'd need additional information.

For you and me to make that decision, we'd need additional information.

Explanation: "For" is a preposition, therefore, the objective case "me" should be used. Now that we have the technical explanation out of the way, just test the sentence the same way you did for (6.). Obviously, you would not say "For...I to make that decision...."

8. If it was a case of life or death, they'd pay more attention, I hope.

If it were a case of life or death, they'd pay more attention, I hope.

Explanation: When you don't know what the situation is (generally the case when you use "If"), use "were."
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9. Are you anxious to begin your new project?

9a. Are you anxious to begin your new project? OR

9b. Are you eager to begin your new project?

Explanation: The distinction between the words "anxious" and "eager" can be extremely significant to anyone who knows the difference - perhaps a boss doing your evaluation? And yet, many people use these words interchangeably.

If you are "anxious," it means you have anxiety; may be nervous or uncomfortable about that new project. If you are "eager," it means you're looking forward to it, and projects a sense of confidence.


10. We expect three things from our staff: Competence, loyalty, and enthusiasm.

We expect three things from our staff: competence, loyalty, and enthusiasm.

Explanation: Two issues here: (1) Following the colon, capitalize the first word if what follows is a complete sentence or a proper noun. If what follows the colon is not a sentence, but a series of things (as in this example), lowercase the first word, and subsequent words, except for proper nouns (formal names of things - cities, persons, etc.).

(2) You're going to ask, so let's - briefly - discuss that comma after "loyalty," and before "and." This is called a serial comma, and is a style issue - not one of correctness. It has probably caused more arguments and wasted more time than any other point of punctuation in history. The serial comma (above) is consistent with the formal or academic style; absence of that serial comma is consistent with the journalistic, or informal style. Take your choice, but be consistent.


11. Mary is one of those people that learns new software really fast.

Mary is one of those people who learns new software really fast.

Explanation: Use "who" for a person, or (perhaps) for an animal you consider to be like a person. Otherwise, use "that," or "which."

12. They brought alot of potato salad to the company picnic.

They brought a lot of potato salad to the company picnic.

Explanation: "Alot" may be runner-up for most frequently misspelled word. "A lot" is two words. Trust me on this.
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13. We plan to vacation in the north this year.

13a. We plan to vacation in the North this year. OR

13b. We plan to go north this year.

Explanation: When a compass direction is a specific destination (i.e., "the North") capitalize it. If you're just going generally in a northerly direction, lowercase it.

14. You'll have to quickly review the entire process before assigning the work.

You'll have to review the entire process quickly before assigning the work.

Explanation: "...to quickly review..." is called a "split infinitive." That means that when you have "to + verb," (i.e. "to run," "to walk," "to sing," etc.) it's against the rule to put another word in the middle, even when it sounds good.

15. The data is clearly trying to tell us something.

The data are clearly trying to tell us something.

Explanation: You may not have caught this one, because virtually everyone either one of us knows uses "data" as a singular. Check it out; it's plural. "Datum" is the singular.

To discuss bringing an Effective Written Communication workshop to your company, please call or email.

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