GrammarPhile Blog

Hot off the Press: The Answers to Last Week’s Cool Quiz

Posted by Terri Porter   Aug 4, 2016 7:30:00 AM


red ribbonA big thanks to everyone who took our proofreading quiz last week. Of the 128 respondents, Barb Poole was the only one to answer all 12 questions correctly. For her proofreading prowess, Barb wins a $25 Amazon gift card (and a job with if she wants it).

The correct answer appears below each question, along with a brief explanation.


1. The prize goes to whomeverA is the first to submitB the most correctC answers.

Correct answer: A

Whomever should be whoever here, as about 53 percent of respondents correctly noted. Although whomever is typically the correct form when referring to the object of a sentence, in this case, the object is the whole clause that describes the prizewinner,  and the subject of that clause is whoever. Compare the following example, in which whomever is the correct choice: The prize goes to whomever he chooses. That’s because the objective clause (italicized) already has a subject (he).


2. Laurel Massey, an architect known for her ingenuity,A has designedB a very uniqueC open floor plan for the company’s new headquarters. 

Correct answer: C 

Very unique is redundant because unique means something or someone unlike anything or anyone else. So something is either unique or it isn’t — there aren’t degrees of uniqueness. A little more than 62 percent answered this one correctly.


3. The airport’s HR department has takenA steps to ensure that its air traffic controllersB can handle the daily job pressures, includingC offering yoga classes and on-site chair massage

Correct answer: C 

This one was a little trickier, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of answers were nearly evenly split between C (41%) and D-No error (43%). The problem here is a dangling participle — the last clause beginning with including are the steps the HR department has taken, but its placement at the end of the sentence suggests it explains the daily job pressures. Moving the phrase to follow the noun it modifies corrects the problem:

The airport’s HR department has taken steps — including offering yoga classes and on-site chair massage — to ensure its air traffic controllers can handle the daily job pressures.


4. If Max is confidentA the company’sB books are in order, he would notC resist an independent audit. 

Correct answer: C 

The problem here is mood variation between the verbs in the two clauses, as nearly 51 percent of respondents correctly determined. First, a little grammar review on mood: The mood of a sentence conveys the speaker’s attitude about the state of what’s being described and can take one of three forms:

  • Indicative conveys the writer’s certainty (e.g., Max is confident the books are in order).
  • Imperative conveys the writer’s desire that some action be taken (e.g., Have that report to me by 3 this afternoon).
  • Subjunctive is used to explore conditional or imaginary situations, and a verb in this mood has no third-person singular variation, so it uses were rather than was (e.g., If Elsa were queen, her kingdom would remain frozen).

The introductory clause in question 4 begins with If, which suggests the subjunctive, but then uses the present tense (is confident), which doesn’t work with the subjunctive mood. The second clause uses the conditional would not resist, which does work with the subjunctive. So we have to align the mood between the two clauses. Below are two ways to do that, depending on the intended meaning:

If Max is confident the company’s books are in order, he will not resist an independent audit.

If Max were confident the company’s books are in order, he would not resist an independent audit.


5. The reason the judge threw outA the case is becauseB it lacked merit.C

Correct answer: B 

This question tripped up nearly half of respondents (47%), who indicated “no error.” Still, 43 percent correctly marked B, recognizing that “The reason … is because” is redundant. Because means “for the reason that,” so one or the other is sufficient:

The reason the judge threw out the case is it lacked merit.

The judge threw out the case because it lacked merit.


6. Felicia was an attorney for fewerA than fiveB years before going back to school to become a veterinarian.C

Correct answer: A 

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents answered this question correctly. The simple rule is to use less for singular nouns (e.g., Ron has less work) and plural nouns commonly treated as singular, such as measurements involving time, money, distance and weight (e.g., The $100 I gave you is gone already?!).


7. None of us knowsA how much longer the company can stay afloatB following it’sC Chapter 11 filing. 

Correct answer: C 

The vast majority (89%) recognized it’s as incorrect. The sentence needs the possessive of the pronoun it, which is its; it’s is a contraction of it is or it has.


8. Narrowing the list of candidates to twoA was hard enough;B picking the bestC of those for the position feels almost impossible.

Correct answer:  C 

Nearly 56 percent of respondents understood that when choosing the more favorable of only two people or things, as in the sentence above, the comparative better is the correct choice. When choosing the most favorable from among three or more, use the superlative best.


9. Although Denise and Frank were often at odds,A Denise agreed to Frank’sB serving as spokesperson asC long as he promised to stick to the script. 

Correct answer:  D - No error

Most respondents (48%) thought the possessive Frank’s was incorrect, but the sentence is actually fine as is. Serving is a gerund (i.e., a word with an “ing” ending that is formed from a verb but functions as a noun). Because gerunds function as other nouns do, any nouns that modify them should be in the possessive case. For more explanation, check out our post on gerunds.


10. ManyA argue that the police stop a disproportionalB number of black people.C 

Correct answer: B 

Three-fourths of respondents recognized that the correct word should be disproportionate (having a difference that is not fair, reasonable or expected) rather than disproportional (lack of proportion, symmetry or proper relation).


11. Neither of the solutionsA the committee proposedB adequately explainC the funding source.

Correct answer: C 

Explain should be explains because the subject of the sentence is Neither rather than solutions. Nearly 71 percent of respondents caught the mistake.


12. UsA workers are planning to strike ifB the company doesn’tC meet us halfway. 

Correct answer: A

We threw you a bone on this last question, and 95 percent of you caught it, understanding that the first word is part of the subject of the sentence and therefore requires the nominative We.


Thanks again to everyone who participated. Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.


 Click here to download Common Grammar Rules

Topics: quiz answers, quiz, grammar quiz

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all