All right, shall we--
Excuse me, you there in the back row. Disrespect for grammar will not be tolerated. Careful, dearie, or I’ll send you out in the hallway to write 1,000 times:
Grammar Queen is always right.
Grammar Queen is always right.
Grammar Queen is always right.
Now . . . where was I?
Ah, yes. Today, class, we will review several commonly confused word pairs. Do you have your pencils ready? Let’s begin with a quiz.
Please read the following sentences and circle the correct word in each pair.
- Ruthy should heed my advice/advise and serve more chocolate in Seekerville.
- Mary lives on a ranch with a slew/slue of cattle.
- Julie penned her thank-you note on rose-scented stationary/stationery.
- Janet has reserved a special spot on her mantle/mantel for her first RITA statue.
- Myra wrote less/fewer words during Speedbo than she had hoped.
- Pam keeps track of important writing details on her ingenuous/ingenious spreadsheets.
- Missy appraised/apprised her editor of several additional book title suggestions.
- Audra is all ready/already planning her trip to the next ACFW conference.
- Cara’s latest work-in-progress includes an odious/odorous villain.
- Tina is wracking/racking her brain for a way to work Vince into her next novel.
- Glynna doesn’t mind the occasional seasonal/seasonable blizzard because the forced solitude gives her more writing time.
- Sandra finds RVing with her husband very restive/restful.
- Debby’s next romantic suspense is sure to impact/affect readers in dramatic ways.
- Grammar Queen may be counted upon to provide exceptionable/exceptional lessons in grammar and usage.
- A student’s just desserts/deserts for failing this test will include expulsion from the dessert/desert buffet at once.
Is everyone finished? You may now exchange papers for grading.
Oops. I suppose exchanging papers might be rather difficult in our cyber-classroom. I have no choice but to trust your complete honesty as you check your own work. For each correct answer in the first 14 questions, give yourself 8 points. If you answer the bonus question correctly, you may add 25 points to your final score.
1. Advice is correct in the first sentence because it is a noun. We advise Ruthy, or we offer her advice. And we know Ruthy is always open to good advice.
2. Slew, meaning a great many, is correct. To slue is to swing around, which is certainly a possibility when negotiating fresh cow patties. Careful, Mary!
3. Stationery, the correct answer here, is what you write on. Stationary describes a state of immobility. One must assume Julie is stationary while writing on her stationery, although I have never known her to sit still for long.
4. The correct answer here is mantel, which is the stone or wood structure over a fireplace. Mantle is a loose garment like a cloak. Knowing Janet’s exquisite fashion sense, I’m sure her mantle will coordinate nicely with her evening gown at the awards gala.
5. Fewer is used when referring to countable things, such as Myra’s words (poor dear). Use less when discussing mass nouns or amounts.
6. No doubt Pam is truly of ingenuous (honorable, candid) character, but her spreadsheet system certainly qualifies as ingenious (clever and original), which is the correct choice.
7. Appraise is to put a value on something. Although incorrect in this sentence, I’m certain it was the case after Missy apprised (the correct response, meaning informed) her editor of so many outstanding optional book titles.
8. My, my, isn’t our Audra on the ball, already (correct answer) planning for the conference! By September, no doubt she will at last be all ready.
9. Do you smell a rat? Oh, no! It’s Cara’s odious (correct answer, meaning hateful) villian! However, I truly doubt he’ll be detectable by smell (odorous). In any case, I suggest Cara’s heroine not get too close!
10. Who in Seekerville has not had his or her brain racked (stretched beyond capacity, so racking is the correct word choice here) by Vince’s wit and wisdom? Wracking (completely destroying) her brain cells would definitely not be in Tina’s best interests.
11. This sentence is a bit tricky, and frankly, we might make a case for either word, so give yourself an automatic 8 points either way. Seasonal relates to one of the four seasons, so a winter blizzard would not be entirely unexpected. However, seasonable means “in a timely fashion,” so if Glynna needed a day or two to hibernate in her cozy little house and write, a seasonable blizzard might be quite welcome.
12. I certainly hope Sandra’s RV trips with hubby are restful, the correct word here. On the other hand, they might both become restive (impatient, agitated) if trapped for long in Glynna’s blizzard.
13. Alas, how many times has the word impact been used when the speaker or writer actually meant affect? Here’s another word for you: solecism. It means a speech blunder or something that deviates from what is proper. Impact is technically a noun, not a verb, which makes it the incorrect choice in this sentence. But I agree that Debby’s stories do have a strong impact upon her readers.
14. Exceptional: uncommon, superior, outstanding, extraordinary. Need I say more? Unless, of course, you find Grammar Queen’s lectures exceptionable (offensive or objectionable)--and if you do, I would kindly ask you to keep your opinions to yourself.
And now for the answer to the bonus question. How many of you circled the double-s form of the word in both cases?
Really? That many? Oh, you think you’re so clever, don’t you?
My dears, the phrase is and has been for untold centuries just deserts. Think of desert as a form of the word deserve. To receive your just deserts is to get exactly what you deserve.
Which, if you missed this question, is NOT dessert!
So, class, have you learned anything new today? Did any of the correct answers take you by surprise? Don’t be embarrassed if you didn’t perform as well as you’d hoped. The true test of a dedicated grammar student is whether or not you move past this unfortunate moment, learn from your mistakes, and sin no more.
Myra here. Grammar Queen asked me to inform you that no Seekers were harmed in the creation of her quiz. . . .
Well, that’s a matter of opinion!
At any rate, she has authorized me to offer a copy of The Synonym Finder to one fortunate commenter on today’s post. A thesaurus in dictionary form, this book remains one of my favorite references for when I need to find exactly the right word. It bears the official Grammar Queen Seal of Approval . . . or would if the publisher hadn't already filled up the cover with all sorts of other stuff.