Dr Abel Scribe PhD

Writing Test

Answers to the test Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. --The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. [1918].
This quiz will test your knowledge of sentence composition--the way words are strung together to make up a sentence. All of the following sentences work. It is your challenge is to choose which sentence works best, and to explain why? Good writers have an intuitive understanding of the language. Better writers understand why some things work better than others. Score one point for each correct answer, but score two additional points for each correct explanation.

The link to the answer sheet is at the bottom of the page.

Print this page (if you can) and note your answers. This exam was inspired by an article by Nancy Kress which appeared in Writer's Digest, November 1997. Questions have been drawn from a variety of sources.

1. (a)  The coolant pumps were destroyed by a surge of power.
(b)  A surge of power destroyed the coolant pumps.

2. (a)  The project failed despite numerous trials, painstaking observation, and strict adherence to the research protocols.
(b)  Despite numerous trials, painstaking observation, and strict adherence to the research protocols, the project failed.

3. (a)  An array of supplies, pencils, crayons, notebooks, erasers, and more, was required for the first day of class.
(b)  An array of supplies, pencils, crayons, notebooks, erasers, and more, were required for the first day of class.

4. (a)  The extremely violent explosion destroyed the entire neighborhood.
(b)  The explosion devastated the neighborhood.

5. (a)  Given a moment, dangling modifiers can be correctly interpreted by most readers. But with their concentration disrupted, dangling modifiers can confuse readers, often without their quite knowing why.
(b)  Given a moment, most readers can correctly interpret dangling modifiers. But with their concentration disrupted, readers can become confused, often without quite knowing why.

6. (a)  The senator spoke about the challenges of the future: problems of famine, global warming, and arms control.
(b)  The senator spoke about the challenges of the future: problems concerning the environment and global peace.

7. (a)  Sam couldn't believe it. Mattie was gorgeous. And she liked the same things he did: football, to listen to country music, long walks, camping at Indian point.
(b)  Sam couldn't believe it. Mattie was gorgeous. And she liked the same things he did: football, country music, long walks, camping at Indian point.

8. (a)  The goalie crouched low, swept out his stick, and hooked the rebound away from the net.
(b)  The goalie crouched low, reached out his stick, and sent the rebound away from the net.

9. (a)  Psychologists agree that, except in a small number of cases, most people are assisted through counseling.
(b)  Psychologists agree that most people benefit from counseling.

10. (a)  He found only two mistakes.
(b)  He only found two mistakes.

11. (a)  He usually came late.
(b)  He was not very often on time.

12. (a)  In proportion as men delight in battles, bullfights, and combats of gladiators, will they punish by hanging, burning, and the rack.
(b)  In proportion as the manners, customs, and amusements of a nation are cruel and barbarous, the regulations of the penal code will be severe.

Writing Quiz Answers

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