Proofreading Quizzes–Test Yourself!

In today’s New York Times online, you will find a proofreading quiz, “Red Pencils Ready?” by Philip B. Corbett. Try it!

Hint: Corbett’s quiz includes one or two errors per passage. I am sharing that hint since I identified many more “errors” than The Times did. That’s because I would have simplified several passages for easier reading.

Now try my quiz below. Hint: It contains 10 errors.

The principle reason for the follow up meeting is to talk about how we will handle inquiries from the press. We are already receiving a large amount of calls from the media, and we want to insure that our statements compliment our print strategy. As a HIV-AIDS advocacy organization, we must discretely manage information and the affects of any publicity. If you receive inquiries you cannot handle, just foreword them to Britta or myself. 

Did you find 10 errors? Look again. But don’t feel bad if you miss some. My Microsoft grammar and spelling checker did not find any!

Check the corrected passage below. But before you scroll down, I want you to know that this quiz appears in my new guide, Clarity, Conciseness, Zing, and More: 262 Ways to Take Business Writing Beyond the Basics. Learn more about the guide on my website. I’m very excited about pulling together 27 articles to help writers move from pretty good to great, from self-conscious to confident. (Note: You may have seen the quiz before. The new guide contains 24 of my best articles from Better Writing at Work and 3 new ones.)

Order by July 5 and receive copies of two other practical articles, “10 Ways to Help Gen Y Write Well” and “Are You Likeable?” Just include the word blog in the comment section of the order form, and I will send you the articles with my thanks.

Corrected Passage:

The principal reason for the follow-up meeting is to talk about how we will handle inquiries from the press. We are already receiving a large number of calls from the media, and we want to ensure that our statements complement our print strategy. As an HIV-AIDS advocacy organization, we must discreetly manage information and the effects of any publicity. If you receive inquiries you cannot handle, just forward them to Britta or me. 

Make sense? I’ve written about many of these errors here, but you can find the explanations all together in Clarity, Conciseness, Zing, and More.

Thanks to Marcia Yudkin for pointing me to the Times quiz.

Syntax Training


  1. Doh! I missed discreetly – which didn’t quite look right – then counted two in foreword to get to ten. Good lesson to double-check when things don’t look quite right (obviously can’t depend on spellcheck!).

  2. Just looked up discrete vs. discreet and realized I hadn’t ever thought about those two words being spelled differently. I have a lot to learn!

  3. Oh dear – I missed “compliment” and “number”. The ‘number vs. amount’ rule trips me up every time.

    Thanks for posting this! I think I’ll grab your guide.

  4. Hi, Clare and Khat. I apologize for the delay in responding.

    Clare, “myself” is wrong in the U.S., although you see it often. The only correct use of it in a similar construction would be “I divided the work between Britta and myself” or “I gave Britta and myself a treat.” It’s reflexive–it has to reflect back to the word “I.”

    Khat, I cover 60 confusing word pairs and trios in my “60 Quick Word Fixes.” (Click the box in the right column to learn about it.) For only US$7, it offers a lot of information. Good luck!


  5. Sometimes using ‘myself’ can be the lesser of two evils. A former boss used to use ‘I’ where he should have used ‘me’, but he was a very smart man. To discreetly change it without questioning his intelligence, I would reconstruct the sentence as you did above and use ‘myself’ as it wasn’t as direct as changing it to ‘me’. He always accepted my change. Cowards way out, but it worked.

  6. I stopped reading when I caught the mistake you made on your very first “correction.” The word “principal” refers to a “person,” and the word “principle” refers to a “law” or “primary” position of an issue. Therefore, you changed a correctly used word in the first passage to one used incorrectly in the second passage. Personally, I think you could use a good proofreader.

Comments are closed.