Thanks to everyone who entered our proofreading quiz last week. Congratulations to Barb Poole, who submitted both the first and the winning entry, missing just four of the 57 errors — even some of the sneaky ones.
The two mistakes that tripped up most people both appeared in paragraph 4: “airways” and “vaccine.” Regarding the first, we have only one airway, which is the area in the throat through which air passes to and from the lungs. The second word should be “vaccination.” Vaccine is the product; vaccination is the process. Consumers can’t “get” a vaccine other than through vaccination, so “vaccination” is the correct term here.
Now for the rest of the answers …
We’ve bracketed the original text in each example below and indicated the correct answers in green capital letters. Below each paragraph, we’ve provided additional explanations for some of the corrections.
Because proofreading can be subjective, we allowed for multiple ways of fixing the errors, as long as the correction didn’t introduce another error or change the meaning of the original text. In the first paragraph, for example, “subtext” is not the right word. Changing it to “context” or “text” or deleting “in the subtext” are all acceptable ways of correcting the problem.
- Many errors are subtle rather than [blaring] GLARING and can be hard to spot. Especially when editing your own work, you have to be careful NOT to overlook missing words or [inadvertant] INADVERTENT typos. Although spell check can usually catch [mispelled] MISSPELLED words, it won’t catch words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly in the [subtext] CONTEXT. Asking someone else to review what you’ve written can help [identity] IDENTIFY errors you may have missed, thus [saveing] SAVING you from [embarassment] EMBARRASSMENT. (8 errors)
Picking up on words that have been used incorrectly can be one of the hardest parts of proofreading, particularly with homonyms (words that sound alike such as there/their/they’re) and rhyming words that have somewhat similar meanings (e.g., blaring/glaring). A previous post discussed some strategies for rooting these out.
- The Obama administration [DO NOT CAPITALIZE] has [lead] LED the way on [heathcare] HEALTHCARE reform. But the resulting Affordable [Healthcare] CARE Act has generated considerable [contraversy] CONTROVERSY. The [statue] STATUTE has survived repeated repeal attempts, [COMMA NEEDED TO FIX RUN ON-SENTENCE] and it seems to be gaining [flavor] FAVOR in some quarters. Opponents, however, [SET "HOWEVER" OFF WITH COMMAS] continue to argue that the [administrations’] ADMINISTRATION’S [polices] POLICIES have done more harm [then] THAN good. How the reform effort will [effect] AFFECT Obama’s legacy remains to be seen. (12 errors)
Using “lead” for “led” is one of the most common errors we see at ProofreadNOW.com. “Lead” is a present-tense verb meaning to guide or direct on a course. “Led” is the past tense of that verb. The confusion in usage may result from how the present- and past-tense forms of “read” are pronounced (read/red) despite being spelled the same.
We also often find “heath” used for “health.” Because both are words, a spell-check program may not pick up the error. The same holds true for “statue” and “statute.”
- A recent study showed that life insurers can [peak] PIQUE [customer’s] CUSTOMERS’ [interests] INTEREST by providing online services such as billing, address updates, forms access and policy information. The study also found that [costumers] CUSTOMERS want the ability to [initate] INITIATE [personnel] PERSONAL changes online such as changing [beneficaries] BENEFICIARIES, requesting loans and withdrawing funds. Companies [who] THAT respond to these needs will [insure] ENSURE they remain ahead of the [curve ball] CURVE. (10 errors)
In the above paragraph, a number of entrants didn’t change “Companies who” to “Companies that.” Even the strictest grammarians might (grudgingly) concede that you can sometimes use “that” in referring to people (e.g., the guy that backed into my car), but using “who” to refer to an entity? No way.
And although some people (and dictionaries) use “insure/ensure/assure” interchangeably, others (including ProofreadNOW.com and most of the contest’s entrants) more strictly apply their nuanced meanings:
- Insure – to buy or provide insurance for (e.g., Bob insured his 17-year-old clunker with the minimum required amount).
- Ensure – to make (something) sure, certain or safe (e.g., The board sought to ensure that the business remained solvent following the market crash).
- Assure – to tell someone in a strong and definite way that something will happen or that something is true (e.g., Kevin assured his father he would never again take the car without permission).
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [(CPOD)] (COPD) is the third-most common cause of death in the U.S. It often [proceeds] PRECEDES [chorionic] CHRONIC bronchitis and leads to a higher risk of pneumonia. [A patient] YOU can [mange] MANAGE [their] THIS condition by not smoking. You should also avoid environmental irritants such as secondhand smoke, chemical fumes, AND dust. A [humidfier] HUMIDIFIER in the home can help [brake] BREAK up [mucous] MUCUS and allow air to flow [easier] MORE EASILY [thru] THROUGH your [airways] AIRWAY. Also consider getting the flu [vaccine] VACCINATION to keep you as [heathly] HEALTHY as possible. (15 errors)
In addition to the challenges mentioned above, “mucous” created some difficulties for about two-thirds of the entrants. “Mucous” is an adjective that means of, relating to or resembling “mucus” (the noun form, which is called for in paragraph 4).
- Anti-fraud [personel] PERSONNEL are trained to know when potential [frauds] FRAUD — [i.e.,] E.G., check kiting or counterfeiting — is present. But what if the fraud [was] IS not so clear-cut[? Perhaps], AS IN a situation involving account takeover theft? Information-sharing software should provide legal immunity to the [the] [partys] PARTIES sharing customer information. Today’s financial firms seek [complience] COMPLIANCE solutions that deliver additive and [complimentary] COMPLEMENTARY [capacitance] CAPACITY. Two of the [essential] key solutions are next-generation connectivity and cloud-based communication software that [incorporated] INCORPORATE many advances in the industry. (12 errors)
About a third of entrants didn’t change “i.e.” (meaning “that is”) to “e.g.” (meaning “for example”). Here’s an example of when “i.e.” would be appropriate:
Anti-fraud personnel are trained extensively to detect potential fraud — i.e., they spend two months learning the ins and outs of identity theft, phone scams and credit card fraud.
Rather than providing examples of fraud, as the original text does, the text following the dash adds more detail to explain what “are trained extensively” means.
Some people incorrectly changed “additive” to “additional,” while others didn’t change “capacitance” (referring to the property of an electric nonconductor) to “capacity” (the ability to do something). Finally, about a quarter of entrants didn’t delete either “essential” or “key,” which are redundant terms.
If you have questions about any of the other answers, please let us know in the comments below. We also offer an Ask the Grammar Expert feature on our website for any other grammar, punctuation or usage questions you might have. Thanks again for playing!