Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TEST Your Writing Skills

How strong are your writing skills? These days more than ever, it's important to polish your manuscript--which includes an absence of spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Agents and editors have less time to spend on editing. Even if you're self-publishing, you don't want to present an error-riddled book to the world.

Consider your strength or weakness in this area. Try to learn WHY things are correct or incorrect; that will help you remember the rules and apply them to your writing. If grammar isn't your strength, it may be helpful to have a sharp-eyed critique partner on hand--or hire a professional editor. In the long run, it's worth it.

Can you spot the errors in these sentences? I've offered this kind of test before, but I can't stress how important it is to sharpen your writing. Don't feel bad if you get some wrong--look at it as a learning experience. To make it trickier, THREE of these are CORRECT. (heehee)

1. Tiger Bell's soft, warm fur under my fingertips soothes me.
2. Three pair of pants hung on the line, swinging in the summer breeze.
3. "Your in big trouble," said Merle. "I told you not to kick that door."
4. Absorbed in the loud, catchy beat of my song, it was hard to tell when grandpa started talking to me.
5. Sean laughs, and the tension in my shoulders eases a bit.
6. She snapped her fingers. "Are you going to stand there all day, boy?!"
7. Its a great day to go to the park, and no one can stop me.
8. To make a recipe properly, you must measure the ingredients with care.
9. What if Mom or Dad catch me sneaking a cookie from the kitchen?
10. David wants the person who's interested in his car to leave their phone number.
11. The cost of apples have doubled since last winter's drought.
12. Yesterday I just laid around reading a book and drinking tea.  
13. I could care less about whether she invited me to her stupid party.
14. If everyone would just stop talking, they could hear what I'm saying!
15. "Be quiet," she snapped. "There trying really hard to get a good score."

1. This is a correct sentence. Fur soothes. The phrase "under my fingertips" merely describes fur and is not part of the noun-verb agreement.
2. Three pairs. More than one pair are hanging on the line.
3. Your should be you're. You are in trouble. The apostrophe means a letter has been left out; in this case it's the "a" in are.
4. Dangling modifier. The intro phrase (up to the second comma) must immediately be followed by the person doing the action. You'd have to say: Absorbed in the loud, catchy beat of my song, I couldn't tell when grandpa started talking to me.
5. This is a correct sentence. Tension eases. Ignore prepositional phrases like "in my shoulders" when you're figuring out noun-verb agreements.
6. Delete the exclamation mark and use the question mark (since it's a question). Never use more than one form of punctuation at the end of a sentence.
7. Its should be it's: It is a great day. The apostrophe means the "i" has been left out.
8. This is a correct sentence. You would NOT say "to properly make a recipe," because that would split the verb/infinitive phrase "to make." Although it seems splitting infinitives is becoming way less grammatically important these days.
9. Should be catches, because Mom or Dad is singular. Mom and Dad would be plural: What if Mom and Dad catch me sneaking a cookie from the kitchen?
10. Person is singular. So it should be: to leave his phone number. Or her number.
11. The cost has. It's the cost that has doubled, not the apples. Ignore prepositional phrases like "of apples."
12. Should be yesterday I lay around, as the past tense of lie (to recline). Laid means "to place"--people can't "to place" themselves. They RECLINE.
13. I couldn't care less. Could care less would mean the person does, in fact, care.
14. Everyone is singular. So it would match with he or she rather than they. Yeah--which sounds really weird! That's why we always get this wrong.
15. They're trying, not there. See that apostrophe in they're? It means something is missing; in this case it's the "a" from they are--they are trying really hard.

How did you do on this test? Did you learn anything new?
Do you have critique partners who are sharp and catch the things you don't?
Have you ever used a professional editorial service to sharpen your manuscript before sending it off to an agent or editor, or before self-publishing?


  1. Fun! I did okay :) Thankfully, I have a critique partner who is a grammar ninja.

  2. this test certainly keeps us on our toes. now I'm off to check my own chapters :)

  3. I only missed 9 and 14. Both times my grammar ear thought they sounded plural, but I can see why they should be singular. :)

    Fun quiz.

  4. I got most of them right but missed the hanging participle--not good with that--and a few others.

  5. Gah I did poorly, back to the drawing board... this was amazing for me to realize the area's in writing I still struggle with. I have a wonderful editor that plows through my writing like a bat out of hell lol however, I have not acquired critique partners/beta readers as yet. I trying though but it takes time and I want to ensure I find the best people to help me with my writing along with me helping them.

  6. I did well on this. I enjoy doing problems like these.

  7. Thank goodness for critique partners and editors! :)

  8. I'm pretty good at this, but I'm still glad to have crit partners and an editor, since I'll never catch everything in a story. I'm too scatterbrained.

  9. Gah! I missed a few - and I totally should have known better. My CPs are great, but I'm not sure I've got a grammar master in the mix. Really, I should just continually brush up on my grammar :)

  10. dropping by to say hello again. I love your posts, btw.

  11. Love this test! I always get these things right but sometimes can't explain why. It helps to have the proper technical terms for the parts of speech!
    The only one I'd question might be #6 - ?! is an interrobang, and can be used apparently. Though I'd be sparing with it, I do agree with that!


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