American Grammar Checkup: It’s Quiz Time Again!

I see a lot of errors in articles, many likely made due to confusion about what’s considered correct in the American grammar system. While our system has a lot in common with all others, it’s also a little different, especially with punctuation.

Here’s a quiz with some errors I’ve seen recently; what do you see that needs fixing?

  1. That non-profit says they’re going to hold their event next week.
  2. Is Ann really seen as ‘snob?’
  3. Social media giant, John White MBA, wrote a terrific article this morning
  4. Our extraordinary story teller, Sarah Elkins, lives in Helena Montana.
  5. Do you thing that story will negatively effect the outcome?
  6. I need two things for my party; cake and ice cream.
  7. That little six-year old boy is cute!
  8. Ann really is seen as a “snob”.
  9. Are all the reports up to date?

All errors are yellow. The corrections are blue.

  1. That non-profit nonprofit says they’re it’s going to hold their its event next week.
  • Since the verb is singular, nonprofit has been identified as a singular entity (it), so any pronoun used to describe it must also be singular.
  1. Is Ann really seen as ‘snob?’ a “snob”?
  • There’s a word missing.
  • The American system uses double quotation marks alone, never single ones (they’re only used inside doubles).
  • Since the entire group of words is a question, the question mark needs to follow the final quotation mark.
  1. Social media giant, John White MBA, Social media giant John White, MBA, wrote a terrific article this morning morning.
  • Since “Social media giant” is John White’s title in this sentence and comes before the name, the comma is wrong. We wouldn’t write “Mr., John White …” and even though there are three words in that title, it’s still a title.
  • A comma is needed after White and after MBA. And the period is necessary to end the sentence.
  1. Our extraordinary story teller, storyteller, Sarah Elkins, lives in Helena Montana. Helena, Montana.
  • Here, the first words describe Sarah’s job or position, so the commas are needed. The name is actually considered non-essential, meaning it could be left out and the sentence would still work grammatically. It’s far better with the name, but the name needs to be set off with either parentheses, commas, or dashes.
  1. Do you thing think that story will negatively effect affect the outcome?
  • The perils of believing that spellcheck does anything beyond checking spelling.
  • Affect is usually a verb meaning to influence; effect is usually a noun meaning the result.
  1. I need two things for my party; party: cake and ice cream.
  • Semicolons are never used to set up a list. Normally the correct mark is the colon. In something very casual, I suppose it could be a dash (but not a hyphen).
  1. That little six-year old six-year-old boy is cute!
  • When a multiword phrase comes before a noun and describes it, ALL of the relevant words need to be connected with a hyphen.
  1. Ann really is seen as a “snob”. “snob.”
  • In the American system, periods and commas ALWAYS go inside final quotation marks. Yes, even if we’re quoting just one or two words at the end.
  1. Are all the reports up to date?
  • How many of you wanted to put hyphens in up to date? Yeah, I can still see your fingers twitching! But as written, the sentence is correct. Up to date as a regular prepositional phrase that stands alone, with no noun following it, is never hyphenated.
  • Now, if the sentence read “Are all of the up-to-date reports here?” or something like that, the phrase would be describing reports and would always be hyphenated.

So, how did you do? If you have any questions about the reasons for the changes I made, please let me know. I’m always happy to help.

Susan Rooks
With 25 years’ experience as an international speaker and workshop leader, Susan Rooks is uniquely positioned to help people master the communication skills they need to succeed. In 1995, Susan formed Grammar Goddess Communication to help business professionals enhance their communication skills. She creates and leads three-hour “Brush Up on Your Skills” workshops in three main areas: American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills. And recently she created and began leading introductory workshops to help business pros maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce free of charge. As a copyeditor (and editor of nonfiction only), Susan has worked on projects ranging from blogs to award-winning children’s books to best-selling business books to corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented and free from grammatical errors. From the beginning, Susan’s only goal was to help everyone look and sound as smart as they are.


  1. Thank you, Susan. I had all the answers correct, probably due to 14 years of Catholic school. I have always found the hyphen issue a challenge. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • And getting the hyphens one right goes against so much of what is typically done, Christina, that it’s amazing when someone does get the idea correctly as you have done! Glad you did so well!

  2. Wow Susan! I so appreciated reading your article. It truly made me think and I know I would love more of these tests from you. A fun and inspiring way to convey your message and mission, might I add.