Usage Challenge: Can You Pick the Correct Word?

Do you think you know words well? Take this challenge: Pick the correct word or phrase in every sentence below. No peeking at the answer key until you have finished!

1. This site/sight/cite is ideal for our conference.

2. John made less/fewer trips to Chicago than Karl.

3. Give your input to Lucia or I/me/myself.

4. Heavy traffic is the principle/principal reason for the change.

5. This wine compliments/complements the dish perfectly.

6. The amount/number of applicants surprised us.

7. I will flush/flesh out my resume with my nonpaid positions.

8. He pours/pores over your reports looking for good news.

9. Does this withdrawal reoccur/recur each month?

10. Turn your receipts in to/into Accounting for reimbursement.

11. The capitol/capital of Ghana is Accra.

12. We are scheduled to meet some time/sometime next week.

13. Who’s/Whose the right person to talk with about parking?

14. Don’t worry–your comment did not phase/faze Jeremy.

15. Kendra is discrete/discreet about people’s problems.

16. My sister-in-law’s sister, i.e./e.g. Julia, lives in Mexico.

17. Is the new CEO likely to affect/effect major changes?

18. Pass around the clipboard before everyone disperses/disburses.

19. Regretfully/Regrettably, we were unaware of the problem.

20. A/An FDA inspector will tour the plant on Thursday.

Are you confident of your choices? Then compare your answers with mine:


1. site

2. fewer

3. me

4. principal

5. complements

6. number

7. flesh

8. pores

9. recur

10. in to

11. capital

12. sometime

13. Who’s

14. faze

15. discreet

16. i.e.

17. effect

18. disperses

19. Regrettably

20. An

How did you do? Be sure to check a style guide or dictionary if you doubt the answers above.


Posted by Avatar photo
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

18 comments on “Usage Challenge: Can You Pick the Correct Word?”

  • Thanks for taking the challenge, Kevin, Jolene, and Alex.

    Kevin, thanks for supporting writers!

    Jolene, only two wrong is excellent. Nice work!

    Alex, the context in 17 should make it clear that the meaning is “bring about.” That meaning requires “effect.”


  • Hi Suzan,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Actually “complement” has the meaning of “raising the food’s game.” “Compliment” means only “pay a compliment to” or “present with a token of esteem.” If you have a talking wine, it can compliment the food.


  • 14 right! Not bad for a non-native English speaker, isn’t it?
    My mistakes were:
    7 (flesh) – 8 (pores) – 14 (faze): didn’t know the idiom, I expected these to be wrong
    10 (in to): read too quickly
    16 (i.e.) – 19 (Regrettably): I should study the actual meaning of these words!

  • So many people are “flushing” out things these days. Thanks for helping socialize clarity on that one- drives me CRAZY!

  • Hi Sang Tran,

    Thanks for using one of the trick words in your sentence. It’s not quite the correct way “effecting” is used. Similarly, one would not write “Thanks for bringing about the quiz.”

    Or were you just kidding me? In any case, thanks for commenting!


  • Lynn, a late comment/question: I thought “sometime” was an adjective meaning “occasional” or “at some point in the past,” and that “some time” would be correct in #12 because it meant “at a specific but unknown or unstated time.” Where did I go wrong?

    Thanks for your challenges. They make us think!

  • Hi Olivia,

    You are right that “sometime” can be an adjective, but it’s not an adjective in Number 12. It’s an adverb.

    My MERRIAM-WEBSTER’S says “sometime” is an adverb meaning “at some time in the future” and “at some not specified or definitely known point of time.”


  • Aha, I didn’t think of it that way but I see now. I appreciate your responding to my delayed question.

    I’m always happy to see a Business Writing entry in my email. The article I found this morning (March 3) is excellent. Your book Business Writing with Heart, mentioned in that article, offers valuable ideas for writing in a variety of tricky situations.

    Thanks much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *