Ms. Nitpicker is reminded of the columnist who announced a prize for the first person to identify the five grammatical errors he purposely inserted in that column, only to be humiliated when a flood of letters pointed out TWENTY-TWO grammatical errors in that particular column. Nevertheless, she shall endeavor to identify and correct all the errors.

  1. "It's the principal of the thing, Sandburg," lectured Jim unwilling to let go of his prisoner. (2 points)

    The principal of the school is our pal; it's the principle of the thing, Sandburg. Don't forget to put a comma after "Jim," too.

  2. Karen your great with kids. (2 points)

    (But obviously not with grammar or punctuation....Put a comma after Karen, and replace "your" with "you're," or "you are.")

  3. All the rage, all the fight, all the trauma, pain and anguish Landers had caused him came out suddenly as Blair began to wail on him mercilessly.(2 pts.)

    Crying on the villain's shoulder won't work; whaling on it with both fists might. Also, we have comma problems that might be solved by putting semi-colons after "fight" and "rage" and a comma after "pain." Give yourself the point if you at least recognized that there were comma problems.

  4. "What in hell do you think you two are doing?" He asked exasperated. (2 pt.)

    I don't know who Exasperated is, but if she's a person, she needs a capital letter. Furthermore, "he" should not be capitalized. Ms. Nitpicker would have written, "What in hell do you think you two are doing?" he asked, exasperated.

  5. Turning on his search lights, the raft appeared with the prone figure of his friend lying inside it. (2 pts.)

    The raft is male and turned on its search lights all by itself, eh? Also, this is the passive voice, which is frowned on. A better way to describe this would have been, "When he turned on his search lights, he spotted the raft, with the prone figure of his friend lying inside it."

  6. The demon-woman merely grunted as she tried to pull out of his vice-like hold. (1 pt.)

    It was an immoral hold, eh? One banned by the WWF? Or was it vise-like?

  7. "You have to fight Blair." (1 pt.)

    Is Blair your opponent? Or do you mean, "You have to fight, Blair," encouraging your friend to hold on?

  8. "Well he's been threw a lot." (2 pts.)

    (Someone threw him in the well--a lot? Or, well, he's been through a lot so far in that story? Furthermore, there should be a comma after the "Well".)

  9. "Everyone effects everyone's lives, Tom, is that so bad?" (1 pt.)

    That may not be so bad, but mistaking effects for affects is.

  10. There's a cot in the doctor's lounge. (1 pt.)

    Either every doctor in this hospital has his or her own separate lounge, or the apostrophe should have been AFTER the "s," as in doctors'.

  11. Connor looked at her confused. (1 pt.)

    Oh? What is her confused? Is it part of her body, or a bit of clothing? Put a comma after "her," however, and the confusion describes how Connor looks at a female in his presence.

  12. This time, there was no getting passed the pain. (1 pt.)

    Only sadists pass the pain around (which means this bad writer is probably a sadist, for she has pained Ms. Nitpicker). Our Heroes try to get past, or beyond, the pain.

  13. Hearne still sat in his truck and their was no movement. (1 pt.)

    If he happened to be sitting still as he still sat, there was no movement; that's true, if repetitious. Or perhaps he was remaining in the truck, to the narrator's surprise. But it's there, not their, which means "belonging to them."

  14. Laughing, Bendrick released him and stood up turning away. Furious, Iolaus twisted around and gave Bendrick a hard kick to the back of the knees that sent him sprawling. Shouting, the others charged Iolaus, kicking at him. (1 pt.)

    Puking, Ms. Nitpicker begged for less repetition and more variety. If it isn't illegal to start every sentence with an adverb, it certainly should be!

  15. "Stay where you are." Blair was amazed at the calm in his voice, inside he felt like jello. (2 pts.)

    It's a tradename, which calls for capitalization, as you no doubt remember. Furthermore, we need a dash or semi-colon or even a period, not a comma, followed by a comma after "inside.".

  16. With tears rolling down his face, Jim began to shout. "Damn it, Sandburg, breath, damn you, breath!" (1 pt.)

    (Apparently a complaint about Blair's bad oral hygiene...but I suspect the author--and Jim--wanted Blair to "breathe.")

  17. Her eyes were burning in his, sharp as knives. (1 pt.)
    Are those eyes sharp, or burning? Because knives don't burn, generally. Don't mix your metaphors (and stay away from clichés, too)..

  18. With great relief, the doctor said that she only needed a few stitches and then it would heal on it's own. (2 pts.)

    Its, not it's. And the doctor doesn't know her from Eve, so he doesn't feel any relief at all. Her friends are noticing, with great relief, that the doctor says....

  19. She got herself a date with him, knocked him out and trussed him up in the basement, started pretending to be him, and proceeded to totally whig me out. (1 pt.)

    First of all, I presume you are a Tory by political inclination...that, or you either don't understand old American slang, which would be "wig me out," or you are using British slang.

  20. Don't whimper and mule like a mangy human. (1 pt.)

    You're making Ms. Nitpicker mewl with pain, dear. Four-legged equines called mules have nothing to do with this sentence.

  21. Anders, or whoever was running this case, had asked for he and Sandburg specifically. (1 pt.)

    Take out the "and Sandburg" and ask yourself if "Anders had asked for he specifically" makes sense. Of course it doesn't. Now use "him" instead.

  22. "Get up!" The sound of a muffled voice said in an accent that he couldn't quite place. <2 pts.)

    Not a voice, just the sound of a voice, eh? Of course, "the" should not be capitalized, either, since "The sound of a muffled voice said in an accent that he couldn't quite place" isn't a sentence.

  23. A sudden thought flashed across his mind and he wheeled the truck around causing several on-coming cars to skid to a stop to try and avoid hitting him. Two of the cars swiped each other and went spinning off the road. One of the surprised cars was Landers. (3 pts.)

    Let's not personalize cars; they are inanimate. Although Ms. Nitpicker once drove a Citation named Millennium Sparrow, she doubts that the car in this fan fiction was named Landers, or that it was surprised. It belonged to Landers, which means there should be an apostrophe after the "s." Also, we need a comma after "around," and the phrase "try and avoid" is inappropriate. He might "try to avoid" but he's not both trying to hit him AND avoiding hitting him.

  24. It was now or never if he and Blair was to live.(1 pt.)

    (It was now or never if he and Blair were to live. This is a nitpicky point--it's always "were" after "if"--but this is Ms. Nitpicker's test, isn't it? In any event, "he and Blair" would be plural, and "were" is the plural form.)

  25. "I could handle that," he said with a smile, trying to diffuse the tension.(1 pt.)

    (It was tense, as in explosive, not a chemical needing to be thinned out, so the word is "defused," remember?)

  26. A story is titled "The Cross We Bare." (1 pt.)

    We make it a naked cross, as opposed to a clothed one? Did the Romans use tuxedos on them for fancy occasions? It is, of course, "The Cross We Bear."

  27. They sat in companionable silence as the sun rose over the horizon and shown brightly through the window. (1 pt.)

    (Showing off, was it? Usually it's content to merely have shone, the past tense of shine.)

  28. //Oh God, he's shooting up my car!//Jenna remained thankfully quiet throughout, even though Blair felt like screaming like a madman and running wildly through the trees. (1 pt.)

    (Why is Jenna thankful to be in the middle of a gunfight? Is she quiet so she can absorb the nuances of sound? Probably Blair was thankful that Jenna remained quiet throughout, even though he felt like.... Also, the transition is awkward, making us initially think Jenna is the one thinking that thought about the car.)

  29. The Scot knew that they'd deliberately left he and his returned prodigal son to talk, but the mountain was becoming steeper even as he considered scaling it. (1 pt.)

    (They'd left he to talk, had they? Isn't it supposed to be "him"?)

  30. I need to get him to a hospital asap! (2 pt.)

    (If you got this wrong, go back and look up abbreviations in Ms. Nitpicker's Guide, ASAP!)

  31. His face was sad, and he had a deep look of unhappiness. (1 pt.)

    (Let me guess--this is a long-shot, mind--but could he possibly be unhappy? This is redundant and silly.)

  32. The third man stood by watching, his eyes shown with a sick combination of anger and arousal. (2 pts.)

    (If you are making it "shining" instead of "shown," you can keep the comma. Otherwise, this should be two sentences, and it's "shone," not "shown.")

  33. As the ambulance pulled away, blasting a warning of its coming, Banks gazed at the thorn-encrusted shaft and shuttered. (1 pt.)

    (I wasn't aware that people had shutters they could pull closed when they saw scary things. Myself, I would have shuddered.)

  34. Checking his watch close to fifteen minutes had passed since leaving the truck. (2 pts.)

    (Close to fifteen minutes DID NOT check his watch. It must be, "Checking his watch, he saw that close to...." or "When he checked his watch, close to fifteen..." We have the same problem with "since leaving the truck." Fifteen minutes didn't leave the truck. The sentence would be more graceful if worded, "Checking his watch, he saw that close to fifteen minutes had passed since he left the truck.")

  35. The hound on his leash let out a howl that broke the night air and sent chills dancing down the large man's spine.*Damn.He loved the thrill of the hunt*."

    Ms. Nitpicker, a fan of hurt/comfort stories, loves foul leering villains who love the thrill of the hunt--but she loathes people who try to italicize where they must not. He did NOT think, "He loved the thrill of the hunt." He thought, *Damn. I love the thrill of the hunt.* If you drop italics altogether, you can get away with this.

  36. The students in his section of Anthro 101 class had talked about the fact that Sandburg was a Guide at length.<1 pt>

    ("At length" modifies "talked," and should be placed beside it. Ms. Nitpicker doesn't believe Blair was a Guide at length.

  37. He also heard Duncan's and Joe's words, too <1 pt.>

    "Also" and "too" are redundant. Pick one..

  38. Jonathan: That's my queue to leave. (1 pt.)

    Apparently there's a long line, possibly of good spellers, wanting to escape this story, which is Ms. Nitpicker's cue to leave, too.

EXTRA-CREDIT:He was an absentee CEO of a company, which manufactured prosthetic devices, called Protec.

(This was a nice try. The commas do indeed set off the side comment from the main statement, but it still sounds like the prosthetic devices are called Protec. Ideally, it should read, "He was an absentee CEO of a company called Protec which manufactured prosthetic devices." You may, if you wish, include commas before "called" and after "Protec," but it isn't required.)(1 pt.)


Ms. Nitpicker trusts you to be honest with yourself. In general:

46 to 52 points is an A

You didn't need Ms. Nitpicker's help and may have noticed a mistake that SHE made!
41 to 45 points is a B
You are smarter than the average bear when it comes to writing, and Ms. Nitpicker is proud of you.
36 to 40 points is a C
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being average, and most people in this world will never notice when you make a mistake-- because they, too, are average.
31 to 35 points is a D
SHAME! You are below average. Go back and re-read Ms. Nitpicker's advice, and this time, pay attention!
Anything under 31 is an F. No, that does not stand for "fantastic," as Ms. Nitpicker's niece insists.
There is no point in Ms. Nitpicker scolding you; you probably can't read this, anyway.

Having seen my test scores, I think I need to go back to Ms. Nitpicker for more advice.

I want to go to Jane Leavell's Story Page and see how many mistakes I can find in a story actually written by that snotty Ms. Nitpicker.

Copyright © 1999 - 2013, Jane A. Leavell. All rights reserved.