EditNATION.com Punctuation and Grammar Quiz #6: Questions and Answers


As I think I have mentioned, all these “target” sentences come from websites where a) there is a “best-selling” author in residence, or b) there are professional writers plying their trade. So spiff it up, people!

1) He relies on more than 16 years of public relations experience to provide strategic communications council that drives business impact.

My heavens, it’s counsel, not council. No offense, but if you’re going to trumpet your stable of “Pulitzer Prize-winning authors,” then you don’t need to be making any of these bush-league missteps for the whole world to see.

2) We’ve helped hundred of tech companies build market awareness and establish their leadership across a range of sectors, including cloud computing, defense, IT security, mobile, healthcare, manufacturing and more.

Um, do you mean hundreds?

3) If you live and breathe social media and the news, like working as a team member, enjoy multi-tasking as a core personality trait, take pride in every word you write, and have mastered the use of the semi-colon, we want to hear from you.

Yeah, well, it’s semicolon. No hyphen.

4) This person should have a strong media and blogger relations background in business-to-business and consumer technology public relations, including traditional and social media. They should have excellent writing skills, and clients communication and presentation skills are critical.

You know, you expect to see this kind of mistake on a blog operated by a 20-something. It’s that noun-pronoun thing. Until they change it (and until the sun rises in the west), then you can not say “this person” (singular) and “they” (plural). No, no, a thousand times NO.

And why, pray, is “clients” plural?

5) Steered by our Editorial Guidebook, we outline your strategy – define your target audiences, set the editorial direction set, and crystallize the calendar.

One “set” too many, I’d say, unless “direction set” is a phrase that I’m not familiar with.

However, I’m trying to understand the dash in that sentence. Either the “outline” is one item in the “strategy,” in which case you’d use a comma after it, or the “outline” is the overarching, fundamental job and what follows are the parts of the “outline,” in which case you’d use a colon. Either way, that’s not a good dash. No, not a good dash at all.

(I’m sorry, but when you say “Editorial Guidebook,” you have my undivided attention.)

Those were five sentences from one super, hyper, über professional writers’ website. And that, people, is five too many.

6) In his previous life, he honed his PR skills at the XYZGROUP, working with emerging growth and publicly-traded companies across enterprise technology and cleantech markets.

Never hyphenate an -ly adverb. I know it sounds right, but it ain’t.

7) He has provided communications guidance to help clients navigate events of all sizes, including products launches, leadership changes, initial public offerings and acquisitions.

“Product launches” would be correct here.

8) Whether working in high school for her brother’s company selling motor oil and antifreeze over the phone or organizing fundraisers and getting her brother in law’s band on local radio stations, she thrived at the art of persuasion.

You need to hyphenate brother-in-law.

Plus, I don’t think you thrive at something, I think you thrive on something. You could excel at, but not thrive at.

9) A mother of two young children,  she’s extremely busy and can be found drinking a lot of coffee and listening to music.

I saw this mistake immediately, but that’s probably because I practice. If you don’t practice, this is why I recommend putting your words into Word before you post, because Word—no matter its other faults—will show you when you have two spaces between words or, as in this case, a punctuation mark and a word. Do you see it now?

10) With no background, training or experience he volunteered to spec and build the first Web site for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

I’d like a serial comma after “training,” but the mistake I would say that has been made here is that the word is now website—one word, no caps. If the information had been written 20 years ago, I guess “Web site” would have been fine, but not now.

11) He supported several client’s social media efforts, including General Motors, Sokolove Law, the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Honeywell’s Nobel Initiative.

“Several clients” is plural, so the possessive of “several clients” is several clients’.

Also, and this is really an unforgivable sin, the official website says that it’s The National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

You’ve just got to get these details right, people. Look. It. Up.

12) A 15+ year PR veteran, she has used her communication powers for good on behalf of NASA, as well as leading technology brands such as HP, QUALCOMM, Microsoft, etc. and top consumer companies like BJ’s Wholesale Club, Nabisco and P&G.

There’s no comma after “etc.” and there always is a comma after etc. when it’s placed smack dab in the middle of a sentence.

13) When not working, she keeps her plants alive (mostly); volunteers for a local animal shelter and refinishes furniture.

This semicolon is incorrect. Semicolons are used when at least one item in a list has its own internal punctuation. To avoid confusion, every item in a list should be separated by either commas or semicolons.

Corrected, this sentence should read:

When not working, she keeps her plants alive (mostly), volunteers for a local animal shelter, and refinishes furniture.

14) Meanwhile, our website design and interactive media bring your story to life through visual dialogue and user experience.

Dialogue is the preferred British English spelling. Dialog is the preferred American English spelling. Since this website is based in America, I’d go with dialog.

15) [these are stubs]

a) 100% Employer Paid Long and Short-Term Disability

When you have two words (long, short) and both would be joined by a hyphen to a second word (term), then both need hyphens. You could say “long-term and short-term disability,” but you can leave the first “term” out and still be understood. The rule is called the suspended hyphen rule. The stub should read:

100% Employer Paid Long- and Short-Term Disability

b) Paid volunteer time at your favorite non-profit every quarter

There’s no hyphen in nonprofit. One word.

I told you this was fun!


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