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QUIZ: Can You Find The Mistakes In These Sentences?

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There is nothing authors enjoy more than receiving letters from readers informing them of grammatical or rhetorical errors in their published work. Each time a book of Mr. Snicket's is published, he receives many such letters, and as his official representative I always wish I could meet these correspondents in person so I might explain that Mr. Snicket purposefully litters his work with textual mistakes in order to test their acumen. Why not challenge yourself now, grammarians and other policers? Here are thirteen sentences from Mr. Snicket's new work, File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents [Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $12.00], which some say has a punctuation error in the title and others say contains a set of bewildering mysteries which will lead young readers alarmingly astray.

Read each sentence carefully, and then choose from the two suggested improvements so that the book might be more beneficial to people less wise and discerning than yourselves.

  • 1. Sometimes you are suspicious because of something, and sometimes you are suspicious because of nothing.

    A. Sometimes one is suspicious with cause, and sometimes one isn't.

    B. Sometimes you are suspicious, but it's probably nothing, so go back to bed.
  • 2. But my mother said she saw my father there, clear as day in the middle of the night--a floating, fluttering specter with a dark and shadowy face.

    A. However, my mother said she clearly saw my father there that evening--a floating, fluttering specter with a dark and shadowy face.

    B. But my mother said she saw my father there, clear as day in the middle of the night--a certified public accountant in a navy blue suit.
  • 3. It was remarkable, I thought, how many neighborhoods were named after the things that used to be there before the neighborhood came along and changed the neighborhood.

    A. I found it remarkable how many neighborhoods had historical names.

    B. It was remarkable, I thought, how many neighborhoods were safe, were clean, and had good schools and low taxes.
  • 4. Literature and the law don't always get along. A great number of authors have been locked in prison for certain pieces of writing, and just as many police officers have been reduced to tears when reading a particularly powerful book.

    A. Literature and the law are two abstract concepts which are not always compatible. Specifically, some authors have been imprisoned, and some lawfolk can read.

    B. Literature and the law don't always get along, so if you enjoy literature, you don't have to attend law school just because your parents say so, and if you're a lawyer, certainly don't write a novel.
  • 5. "The marriage I've arranged for my daughter," she said, gesturing to Tatiana, "is being ruined by a demon."

    A. "The marriage I've arranged for my only daughter, Tatiana," she said, "is being ruined by a demon."

    B. "The marriage I've arranged for my daughter," she said, gesturing to Tatiana, "is being ruined by a certified public accountant in a navy blue suit."
  • 6. "What kind of funny?" I asked her. "Funny like a clown onstage? Or funny like a clown hanging around the entrance to a bank?"

    A. "What kind of 'funny'?" I asked her. "'Funny' with the synonym 'humorous'? Or 'funny' with the synonym 'strange'?

    B. "Hee hee hee hee," I guffawed.
  • 7. "You ever get hit with a magazine?" Mack asked me. His voice was friendly enough, but he was rolling Read Meat up into a mean‐looking tube.

    A. "You ever get hit with a magazine?" Mack asked me. His voice was friendly enough, but his gesture of rolling up a publication entitled Read Meat could be interpreted as hostile.

    B. "You ever subscribe to a magazine?" Mack asked me, showing me his catalog. "The prices are very reasonable, and it helps me earn money for college."
  • 8. Stain'd‐by‐the‐Sea was the sort of place where secrets lurked everywhere, like shuddering plants behind a fence I'd never thought twice about.

    A. Stain'd‐by‐the‐Sea was the sort of place in which secrets lurked, like shuddering plants behind a fence about which I'd never thought twice.

    B. Stain'd‐by‐the‐Sea was the sort of place which could serve as an eerie setting for a series of children's books available by clicking here.
  • 9. We are the Big Bad Brick Gang, an anonymous group of vandals and other malcontents who strike in secret in the middle of the night, with clever strategy and bricks.

    A. We are the Big Bad Brick Gang, an anonymous group of vandals and other malcontents who strike strategically and secretly at night, using bricks.

    B. We are the Big Bad Brick Gang, a group of honor students who use their spare hours to pick up litter.
  • 10. "Help! Help!" the voice called again, and in moments I was crouching on the floor next to the counter.

    A. "Help; Help!" the voice called again, and in moments I was crouching on the floor next to the counter.

    B. "Help! Help!" the voice called again, and in moments I had run quickly down the block so as not to get involved in anything dangerous.
  • 11. "Trouble is like grease," I said, with a nod at Jackie's jumpsuit. "If you have it on you, you'll probably get it on everyone nearby."

    A. "Trouble is like grease," I said, gesturing to Jackie's greasy jumpsuit. "If you have grease on you, you'll probably get it on everyone nearby."

    B. "Trouble is like grease," I said, with a nod at Jackie's jumpsuit. "Eventually it will serve as the title of a cloying musical."
  • 12. It was a warm, breezy day, with the wind carrying a salty smell from the seaweed of the Clusterous Forest, an eerie phenomenon that lay below the cliff we were on.

    A. It was a warm, breezy day, with the wind carrying a salty smell from the seaweed of the Clusterous Forest, an eerie phenomenon that lay below the cliff on which we were standing.

    B. It was a warm, breezy day, and thank goodness I was nowhere near a cliff or the Clusterous Forest but on a beautiful balcony waiting for my nine-year-old niece to finish mixing me a gimlet.
  • 13. "Snide" is a word which here means "the kind of tone you use in an argument," and "sensible" refers to the tone you are supposed to use instead.

    A. "Snide" is a word which means "the kind of tone one uses in an argument," and "sensible" refers to the tone one is supposed to use instead.

    B. "Snide" is a word which describes people who know all about grammar, although "sensible" is the word they use to describe themselves.





SCORING THE QUIZ:

If you chose more As than Bs:
Grr! It's "'A's' and 'B's!'"

If you chose A's and B's equally:
Literature is a slithery beast, which slips from the grasp of rule and ethic, like life.

If you chose more B's than A's:
You have the feeling this isn't a quiz with any educational merit whatsoever, but some sort of goofy piece serving to promote a book, thus besmirching the reputations of both Lemony Snicket and the Huffington Post. From now on, you will rely only on J. K. Rowling and BuzzFeed.

Art by Seth.