How Many Common Writing Errors Do You Make?

Let’s talk a bit about grammar and usage errors today. Can you find the errors in the following three sentences?

  1. Woodland Caribou: Less than 65 roam America’s mountains and mesas.
  1. As soon as they get the test scores back, her or her assistant will call you.
  1. They thought living in Canada would be a lot different than living in Portland, Oregon.

Here are the answers:

  1. The error here is “Less.” When you can count them, it’s “Fewer,” so this sentence should read: Woodland Caribou: Fewer than 65 roam America’s mountains and mesas. Use “Less” when it’s something you can measure (volume): There is less coffee in the blue cup than in the red one.

If you thought the problem was the capitalized word following the colon, then when do you capitalize the word following a colon? Capitalize the next word after a colon when it is a proper noun, or when it is the first word of a complete sentence. If it is part of a series, and not a complete sentence, it should be lower case.

How about “65”? Numbers nine and lower are spelled out. Numbers 10 and higher are shown in Arabic numerals.

  1. This one is easy, but I included it to give you a shortcut. The error, of course, is the first “her,” which should be “she.” The shortcut: When you have a situation like this one, just cover up the first of the two words or phrases in question. Cover up the first “her,” and this part of the sentence reads, “…her assistant will call you.” Sounds fine. But cover up “or her assistant,” and this part of the sentence will read, “…her will call you.” Clearly not fine. You can hear that it should be “…she will call you.” The sentence should read:

As soon as they get the test scores back, she or her assistant will call you.

  1. The error here is that things are “different from,” and not “different than.”

And yes, the comma needs to be between Portland, and Oregon

Hope you’ve enjoyed this short quiz. If you’d like to test yourself further, visit our archives by clicking here.


Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email to learn more.

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