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Three Quests for Errors

Are you feeling smart and alert today? Test yourself in the three short passages below. Each “Error Quest” has just one error. Find and correct it.


Error Quest 1:

Since you asked, this is RoAnn’s and my suggestion: We believe that we should use the word programs rather than tracks. Programs fits better with our offerings and tracks might confuse people on the environmental side of the business.


Error Quest 2:

As you know, both Damian and Patrick transferred out of the department, so we are in unchartered territory. We have never before had to operate without at least one supervisor. We are gradually developing confidence in our decision-making skills, but it hasn’t been easy.


Error Quest 3:

Thank you for doing the meeting notes so quickly. I have just one possible correction: I believe it was Mirza who volunteered to write the article-not Mark. Mark said he would review Mirza’s work. Does that sound familiar to you?

How did you do? Did you find one error in each passage? Before scrolling down to compare your ideas with mine, check to see whether you found the same type of error I found:

  • Error Quest 1 has a punctuation error.
  • Error Quest 2 has an incorrect word.
  • Error Quest 3 has another punctuation problem.

In Error Quest 1 the last sentence needs a comma between its two independent clauses:

Programs fits better with our offerings, and tracks might confuse people on the environmental side of the business.

Anytime you connect two independent clauses (sentences) with the conjunction and, but, or, nor, for, yet or so, you need a comma before the conjunction.


In Error Quest 2 the territory is uncharted–not unchartered. Uncharted means there is no map, or chart, for it.


In Error Quest 3 the hyphen should be a dash, like this:

It was Mirza who volunteered to write the article–not Mark.

OR: It was Mirza who volunteered to write the article — not Mark.

OR: It was Mirza who volunteered to write the article—not Mark.

OR: It was Mirza who volunteered to write the article — not Mark.

Your software may change the two-hyphen dash (–) into an em dash (—). And some style manuals recommend inserting a space before and after an em dash.

Or consider taking a punctuation or a proofreading course. My Punctuation for Professionals and Proofread Like a Pro are available as online self-study courses.

Did you find any other errors in the three passages or in this blog post? Let’s discuss them!


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
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. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

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