Three Quick Tips for Grammar Quizzes


Three Quick Tips for Grammar Quizzes

Online grammar quizzes pop up all over the place, and I often find them hard to resist.

I’m a copyeditor, so why bother with quizzes I should breeze through? Isn’t it like shooting fish in a barrel?

Yes, but it always feels good to ace something, and people working outside traditional office settings often need all the pick-me-ups they can get.

Indie editors work largely in isolation. Positive feedback from our authors is one of the best parts of the job, but we may or may not get any feedback at all, even when the author is ecstatic.

And we certainly don’t have the daily face-to-face interactions you find in an office, so even getting a little positive feedback from a quick electronic quiz can provide a mental boost.

I won’t go into any irritation over grammar quizzes that are more concerned with spelling or less strictly grammatical matters. Or how they often promote zombie rules. Or how they are sometimes poorly edited. Or how sometimes the “correct” answer is, at the very least, debatable.

Oh, look at that. I guess I just made those points in a decidedly cowardly manner. To be fair, for the first point, most see the grammar umbrella as covering a wide area. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The following are three quick tips for nailing high marks on grammar quizzes. (For a giant measure of extra credit, you can also grab a copy of Bryan A. Garner’s The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, an excellent resource.)

  1. Read carefully.

People read differently online and are much more likely to scan for information. But this isn’t a good practice for multiple-choice quizzes, and it’s easy to start to read the question, think you know what’s being asked, and move on to the answers.

More often than not, the reason you made an incorrect choice is because you misread the question and selected the first answer that matched the question you thought was being asked. Questions also contain words like “does not” or “never” or “always,” and these will change the answer you select.

  1. Get that nonsense outta here!

With online quizzes, the process of elimination makes your task a whole lot easier. You can normally throw out an answer or two that you’re absolutely certain isn’t correct. So on quizzes with four possible answers, you can easily increase your odds of getting the answer correct from 25 percent to 50 percent.

As mentioned above, read all the answers carefully. You might think the answer has to do with comma placement and find yourself going back and forth between two possible choices — until you see that one of those answers has a “their” that should be “there.” Problem solved.

  1. Don’t overthink it.

Unless you’ve failed to read the entire question carefully and are thus either operating under a false assumption or not seeing something obvious, going with your gut is usually a good thing. Most of the time your first thought is the correct one.

Don’t let the quiz masters get in your head. Madness lies down the road of “They are probably thinking I’ll think this, and so I should think this, but they might anticipate my thinking that as well.” Don’t succumb to it. Choose the best answer and let the chips fall where they may.


Copy editor and writer James Gallagher is the owner of Castle Walls Editing. To hire James, email him at  

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