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Are You Better At Grammar Than President Trump?

Who has a better command of the English language: you or the commander in chief? (All answers follow Merriam-Webster, the AP Stylebook, and the BuzzFeed Style Guide.)

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  1. 1. If an English teacher were deducting a letter grade for every error in this tweet, how would Trump do?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    This tweet is a failing pile of garbage!

    Because of its errors in punctuation, capitalization, and syntax, no self-respecting English teacher would give this tweet a passing grade.

    This tweet is a failing pile of garbage!
    Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
  2. 2. Why would a grammarian, in particular, describe this as a terrible tweet?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    The dash is in the wrong spot.
    Ivanka's name should be set off in commas.
    The phrasing offers two contradictory interpretations.
    All of the above.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Transposing the second and third sentences would prevent the suggestion that "doing the right thing" is emphatically terrible. (Ivanka's name should not be set off in commas as a nonessential clause because Trump has another daughter. Remember Tiffany?)

    Tap to play GIF Tap to play GIF
    Via tenor.co
  3. 3. Which keyboard key(s) would you use to correct this tweet?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Space bar
    Space bar and hyphen
    Space bar and delete
    Space bar and comma
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    "Mainstream" doesn't use a space — and obviously one needs to follow the period. (And although some may be tempted to add a comma after "MESS," that would be incorrect: This is a simple sentence with a compound verb, not a compound sentence.)

  4. 4. How many punctuation marks are used incorrectly in this tweet?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Middle East is never hyphenated, and the comma is a "splice": It joins two independent clauses. A dash, semicolon, or period (forming two sentences) would be acceptable substitutions.

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  5. 5. Which of the following edits fixes the grammar errors in this tweet?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Because Trump is addressing Miller — using the vocative case — his name should be set off with commas. (And replacing the first "this morning" with "today" eliminates the unnecessary repetition.)

    Via Alex Wong / Getty Images
  6. 6. After swallowing a stiff drink, how would a grammarian revise this tweet (within the 140-character confines of Twitter)?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out—especially for reasons of safety & security—big trouble!
    When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security—big trouble!
    A country that is no longer able to say who can and who cannot come in & out is in big trouble—especially for reasons of safety & security!
    A country that is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, is in big trouble—especially for reasons of safety & security!
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Talk about big trouble — this tweet is really a fragment, with no clear subject, verb, or direct object. Disjointed clauses, a misplaced modifier, and incorrect punctuation only compound the confusion. Our drunk grammarian's revision recasts Trump's tweet within a coherent sentence structure — without altering the substance of his message.

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  7. 7. What is the name of the grammatical error in this screamy sentence?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Run-on sentence
    Sentence fragment
    Comma splice
    Misplaced modifier
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    The comma joins (or "splices") two independent clauses, an error that can usually be corrected with a conjunction or semicolon. In this case, however, using a period to form two separate sentences would make the most sense.

  8. 8. Which of the following would an English teacher accept as an appropriate revision of this tweet?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Why aren't the lawyers looking at and using the federal court decision in Boston, which is at conflict with ridiculous lift ban decision?
    Why aren't the lawyers examining and recognizing the Boston federal court decision, which is at odds with the ridiculous lift-ban ruling?
    Why aren't the lawyers examining and following the Boston Federal Court decision, which is at odds with the ridiculous lift-ban ruling?
    Why aren't lawyers studying and using the Federal Court decision in Boston, which is at odds with the ridiculous lift-ban ruling?
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Although there are several ways to improve this tweet, there is only one option that addresses the following errors: “lift ban” needs a hyphen as a modifier before “decision”; “in Boston” is a misplaced modifier; “federal court” is lowercased (it is not a proper name); “using” is not the appropriate verb here, especially in the context of precedent; and “lawyers” would only be preceded by “the” if he is referring to a specific group. And because “decision” and “ruling” are generally used interchangeably in news pieces, replacing one helps with readability and flow.

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    Via giphy.com
  9. 9. How many hyphens are used correctly in this tweet?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    "Nonsense" has been one word for centuries, and "cover up" is only hyphenated as a noun (Trump uses it as a verb, so it should be two words).

  10. 10. Which of the following revisions addresses the grammatical and/or punctuation errors in this tweet?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    If the ban was announced with a one-week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad dudes out there!
    If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of “bad” dudes out there!
    If the ban was announced with a one-week notice, the bad would rush into our country during that week. A lot of “bad dudes” out there!
    If the ban were announced with a one-week notice, the "bad" would rush into our country during that week. A lot of “bad dudes” out there!
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    It's poorly written, but Trump's tweet correctly uses the subjunctive mood (which expresses a hypothetical as opposed to a statement of fact). The "scare quotes," however, are another story. They make sense for the indefinable "bad," but using them with "dudes" calls undue attention to the gender in this phrase — which is essentially a synonym for his arguably racist pet phrase "bad hombres." (And why is he using valuable Twitter real estate for scare quotes, when his other choice, screaming caps, would serve the same purpose?)

    Via Twitter: @MerriamWebster
  11. 11. POTUS did not follow any conventional standards for the date in this tweet. Which of the following options is acceptable?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    January 20, 2017 will be remembered ...
    20th January, 2017, will be remembered ...
    January 20th 2017 will be remembered ...
    Jan. 20, 2017, will be remembered ...
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Again, Trump is using valuable real estate on an ordinal (-th) when all usage and style guides have judged it to be clumsy and unnecessary. American styling calls for the year to be set off with commas; in the UK and elsewhere where the month is reversed, no comma or ordinal is used (20 January 2017).

  12. 12. How many errors are there in this infamously deleted tweet?

    thehill.com
    1
    2
    3
    4
    I honerstly have no idea.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    There are three errors, although Trump corrected only one when he reissued the tweet: "honored" is misspelled, and "people" and "president" are properly lowercased in these noun forms.

  13. 13. Which of the following changes would correct the punctuation and/or grammar error(s) in this tweet? (We're ignoring the interjection borrowed from a ’90s middle schooler, because it's just SAD!)

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Give the public a break! The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large-scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully.
    Give the public a break — The FAKE NEWS media are trying to say that large-scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully.
    Give the public a break: The FAKE NEWS media are trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully.
    Give the public a break. The FAKE NEWS media are trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully.
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Unless it is a proper noun, the word following a dash is not capitalized. There are several ways to fix this, but the only correct option here properly hyphenates "large-scale" as a modifier. (And because he refers to the media here as a monolithic group, it takes a singular verb.)

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    Via giphy.com
  14. 14. In this tweet, Trump misquoted the New York Times, whose article reads, “Mr. Xi … had not spoken to Mr. Trump since Nov. 14.” Besides punctuation errors, what is at issue here?

    Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
    Correct!
    Wrong!

    Trump changed the Times article's use of past perfect tense — used to distinguish between two events that both happened in the past, but at different times — to present perfect, which describes an event that still has some influence in the present. In fact, the recent phone call is the focus of the Times piece — which he is misrepresenting by changing "had" to "has."

    Via nytimes.com

Are You Better At Grammar Than President Trump?

SAD!

Your grammar is a little rusty — maybe you could hit up your old English teacher for an apprenticeship?

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Not terrible!

You didn't spot *all* the grammatical errors in Trump's tweets, but you know the difference between a bad verb and an adverb. Well done!

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Terrific!

You're making grammar great again!

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Winning!

You are a true grammar expert. In fact, if grammar were the presidential election, you'd be POTUS. Congratulations!

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Thumbnail credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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