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English Quiz: What’s Wrong with This Awful Sentence?

10/26/2012 9:14 am

WGU online university students love to learn. WGU online Teachers College students love to teach. And if there’s one thing both learners and teachers love, it’s a quiz!

OK, so maybe pop quizzes aren’t always fun, but they seem to be pretty popular on social media. So we put together this quick English quiz to see just how many errors our Facebook fans and Google+ followers could find in one horrible, ugly, dreadful sentence.

Yuck. Who wrote that?

The smarties in WGU’s community of learners probably found even more errors than we did. But here’s our complete list. How many did you find?

1. Online should be one word. As one word, online is an adjective that describes something on the Internet. As two words, it is a prepositional phrase for standing in a physical queue: "The eager movie-goers waited on line for hours before the doors were opened."

2. Which should be changed to that. The phrase "which I attend" is a dependent clause, so it should use the word that. (To test, try removing the phrase to see if it makes sense. "The best thing about the online school is the competency-based learning model." Removing the descriptive clause changes the meaning—the best thing about what online school? An example of an independent clause that requires the word which: "The online school WGU, which I attend, is an accredited, nonprofit university." Notice that independent clauses also are offset by commas, while dependent clauses are not.)

3. Competency is misspelled.

4. Competency-based is a two-word compound modifier preceding the noun it describes (model), so it should be hyphenated. Although the word learning is also part of a string of words describing model, it does not get included in the hyphenation because it stands alone as an adjective: We’re talking about a learning model that is competency-based, not a model that is competency-based-learning.)

5. The sentence is a run-on. There should be a period between model and it, and it should be capitalized to start a new sentence.

6. Let’s should be changed to lets. With an apostrophe, let’s is a contraction shortening "let us." Without an apostrophe, lets is the singular form of the verb "to let."

7. Accelerate is misspelled.

8. I as the first-person singular nominative pronoun is always capitalized.

9. No should be know. These two words are commonly misused homophones

10. There should be no comma between know and and. A comma precedes a conjunction when the conjunction joins two clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences. "Focus on what I still need to learn" is the second verb phrase identifying what the learning model lets you do; it does not have a subject and does not work as an independent sentence.

11. Steal should be still. These two words may also be slight homophones (depending on your local accent).

So here’s the fixed sentence:

The best thing about the online school that I attend is the competency-based learning model. It lets me accelerate through material I already know and focus on what I still need to learn.

Sounds and looks a lot better, doesn’t it? Did you find all 11? (We hope so!) Did you find more? (We hope not!)

Want to challenge your friends? Select the "Pin It" icon at the top of this blog to pin a large version of the quiz image!

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