Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Does Your English Cut the Mustard?

You’ll find a few items in this quiz that are correct according to British grammarians, but are incorrect according to American grammarians. To take the test and to see my score, see below the fold.

Your English Skills:

Grammar: 100%
Punctuation: 100%
Spelling: 100%
Vocabulary: 100%

Comments

  1. #1 J-Dog
    September 26, 2006

    Wow! I need to go back to school! Grammar 100-Vocabulary 100-Punctuation 40-Spelling 20!!! Good thing I have spell check!

  2. #2 Jeff Knapp
    September 26, 2006

    English wernt never my goodest subject – espeshally speling.


    Your English Skills:


    Vocabulary: 100%
    Grammar: 80%
    Punctuation: 80%
    Spelling: 40%
  3. #3 Bob O'H
    September 26, 2006

    I was once having lunch with some English language lecturers, and they were discussing how some of them were “heavy punctuators”. It was great to hear that even the professionals don’t agree.

    This is, of course, merely an excuse for getting such embarrassingly low marks.

    Bob

  4. #4 Craig Pennington
    September 26, 2006

    Speelling.

    Grammar: 100%
    Punctuation: 100%
    Vocabulary: 100%
    Spelling: 20%

  5. #5 Lab Cat
    September 26, 2006

    It isn’t British grammar rules because we would never put a comma before closing the speech marks.

    I needed some second guesses on all but the vocab.

  6. #6 Caio de Gaia
    September 26, 2006

    I got 100% on everything but hesitated about question 14. It looked so easy I thought it was a trap and went for the comma before the marks, so technically I failed that one.

  7. #7 The Ridger, FCD
    September 26, 2006

    I quibble about the grammar: two of those questions are correct in both variants depending on what you mean. But 100s all around.

  8. #8 Janne
    September 26, 2006

    Hmm, 100%, 100%, 100% and 80%. But then, English is my third language, so I have an excuse. :)

  9. #9 Bob O'H
    September 27, 2006

    Janne – you were lucky there weren’t any questions about the use of the word “the”. (I’m assuming you’re Finnish with a name like that).

    Bob

  10. #10 Alon Levy
    September 27, 2006

    I got 40% on vocabulary and 100% on the others… I’m really slipping.

  11. #11 Janne
    September 27, 2006

    Bob, “the” is no problem for me – I’m Swedish, actually, though with Finnish ancestry, hence the two prior lanugages.

    The correct use of the comma still eludes me however, in English or Swedish. That and an unfortunate tendency not to use proper contractions in written English (I use “I am”, “they are” instead of “I’m”, “they’re” and so on).

  12. #12 AJS
    October 1, 2006

    I take issue with the creator of the quiz over Q.14.

    Unless the comma is part of the song name, it should not be inside the speech marks. Isn’t the point of speech marks to delimit verbatim quotation from original work?

    It becomes even more obvious when you consider the following two sentences:

    • To find out the names of the files in the current directory, type “ls”.
    • To find out the names of the files in the current directory, type “ls.”

    One could write “Type ‘ls’ to find out the names of the files in the current directory” and thereby dodge the issue; but this will not work in every situation.

    As an old-skool hacker, I have my own theory on under- vs. over-punctuation. When using fixed spacing (as on a VT220-type text terminal — remember them?) rather than proportional spacing, punctuation marks have a more apparent “cost”. I would hazard a guess that under-punctuation would tend to be more common in fixed-spaced media and over-punctuation more common in proportionally-spaced media.

    I have seen text cluttered with unnecessary punctuation marks, and at the other extreme I have seen text whose meaning was ambiguous for want of punctuation. Rarely if ever has the difference been a single punctuation mark.

  13. #13 Sammy
    October 3, 2006

    The comma inside the quotation marks is correct in American grammar. You put the comma or period at the end of a clause, but before the quotation marks.

    e.g., Lydia decides to “treat” Jane and Elizabeth to lunch, but realizes she has no money, for she has spent it all on an unattractive bonnet she thought she “might as well buy as not.”

    The only time you don’t (again, in American grammar) is when you are citing a source, or a page number.

    e.g., Lydia decides to “treat” Jane and Elizabeth to lunch, but realizes she has no money, for she has spent it all on an unattractive bonnet she thought she “might as well buy as not” (197).

    And even then, the location of the parentheses is debated – all four of my English teachers in high school wanted us to cite page numbers differently.

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