Writing Skills Quiz – with Answers

Posted on April 11, 2016 in Copywriting, Editing/Proofreading, Training

Do you think it is OK to start sentences with “And …..”?

Yes.  However, many of us were taught not to, I think for two reasons.  First, because ‘and’ is a conjunction, and our teachers were also telling us conjunctions were for joining phrases together, so allowing them at the start of sentences would have been contradictory. Second, language has become less formal since most of us were at school, and starting sentences with ‘and’ (which you will see in newspapers etc.) is one example of how language has softened.

 

What is the generally suggested length (in number of words) for your web pages and blogs?

300–500 words.  Longer ones lose the interest and attention of readers on what is a fast-paced environment.

 

The passive tense has several flaws and as a result is looked down upon. (a) What is it, and (b) Why is it looked down on, and (c) When is it OK to use it?

(a) The passive has two parts to it: part of the verb to be or to have (e.g. was, have, were, etc.) and the past participle (e.g. seen, left, visited). Hence ‘people were seen’ OR ‘papers were left’.  (b) It is looked down on because it puts the doer of the sentence after the object, compared to our schooldays guidance of Subject – Verb – Object rule.  (e.g. Passive: ‘The grass was trampled on by elephants.’ Active: ‘The elephants trampled on the grass.’) It also results in longer sentences.  (c) However, it can be used when one doesn’t know who the subject is; so, in the examples above, we may not know who saw the people, nor who left the papers.

 

How would you change the tone of voice of a piece of writing?

Content, vocabulary (words included & excluded), grammar (sentence length, active and passive verbs, contractions e.g. won’t, pronouns, etc.), dialogue.

 

The letters A–I–D–C–A represent the suggest order of points for writing advertising or other copy seeking to persuade people.  Do you know what do the letters stand for?

The letters represent the sequential order of the type of phrases to use when writing advertising copy, from the top to bottom of a flyer, poster, leaflet, etc.  They stand for: Grab people’s Attention, make them Interested, increase their Desire, make them Convinced they are doing the right thing, and given them a call to Action, like a phone number of website address to go to. Here’s an example:

‘Give your life a Lift’                         grabs their Attention

‘Next day installation available’                 makes them Interested

‘365-day local service and support’          increases their Desire

‘Government endorsed’                              Convinces them

‘Tel. 0800 326 5104’                        provides the call to Action

 

According to Philip Pullman, what does mankind need most after shelter, food and friendship?

Stories!  Thought provoking eh, and a message for anybody doing some writing.

 

I ask delegates on my training course what factors turn them off a piece of writing – as research into what things to avoid.  What things do they most commonly say?

Clichés and jargon, long sentences/lack of clarity, waffle, typos and grammatical mistakes, no clear structure/lack of coherence.

 

“There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.”  Do you agree or disagree?

Some subjects are certainly harder to write about than others but if you allow yourself to be creative, you can make anything interesting.  A university friend’s first job was on Packaging News, or some such magazine, and her attitude was that if she could write on packaging she would be able to write on anything.

 

What is a split infinitive?  When is OK to split one?

An infinite of a verb is ‘to go, ‘to have’, ‘to see’ etc.  At school we were told not to split infinitives.  So, we shouldn’t put the word ‘boldly’ within the infinitive ‘to go’, to make ‘To boldly go’ – whatever Star Trek may think!

The rule stems from when Latin was an important part of people’s education and our language, and because Latin infinitives are only one word (ire = to go), you physically can’t put a word in their middle. (Read more on this rule on my blog.)

So, older generations brought up on Latin and people influenced by it will spot if you split one, and disapprove.  Others won’t mind – let alone know.  And anyway, sometimes you want to stress the adverb, so splitting the infinitive helps convey the phrase’s meaning, e.g. ‘To lovingly stroke’ compared to ‘To stroke lovingly.’

 

How can you measure how readable your writing is? 

Tucked away in Word are ‘readability’ you can set your grammar checker to give you the readability scores for a piece of writing. (Home > Options > Proofing > Set readability scores.)  These calculate a piece of writing’s average word and sentence length, and use these as a proxy for how easy it is to comprehend (Flesch Readability Score) and how many years of education a typical reader will need to have to comprehend it (Flesch–Kincaid Reading Level).

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for that Robert. Stimulated my mind ready for the day!