I often use published mistakes for my Grammar Guide quizzes, but today I was inspired by writers and editors who got things right. All of the sentences in today’s Grammar Guide quiz (It’s No. 71) come from The New York Times. I read the national edition in print on Sunday mornings. This quiz will betray my reading interests; I turn first to the Sunday Review, the Book Review and Sunday Styles (I love the wedding reports).
As usual, the quiz is more about usage and copy editing than about the mechanics of grammar. And I am somewhat prescriptivist in my outlook, so some things that I call attention to on the quizzes are not errors; they are merely choices that a writer or editor would make. I try to add notes and disclaimers in the quiz answers to let readers know that just because the answer they chose was “incorrect” doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.
Take my advice — or don’t. The quizzes are designed to give people practice and perhaps to impart knowledge that copy editors and writers might find useful. You sometimes have to know the “rules,” even the zombie ones, so you can defend against them. (By the way, there is a sentence about zombies on the quiz. Does that pique your interest?)
And, as long as I am revealing my perhaps elitist bent, I will recommend reading Frank Bruni’s column, “America the Clueless.” It will curl your hair.
But first, try the quiz.