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Word Police by Barbara Wallraff
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Confused? Take a peek at a sample exam before you try your hand at the real thing.

Read about the new Word Police training manual, Word Court, by Word Police Commissioner Barbara Wallraff.

Join a conversation on Word Police and Word Court in Atlantic Unbound's reader forum, Post & Riposte.

Read recent Word Court columns from The Atlantic Monthly, and browse the Word Fugitives archive, in The Court Record.

Community Relations Division
Entrance Exam

This is a test of interpersonal skills as well as of knowledge. A successful candidate for the Community Relations Division of the Word Police will be not only sensitive to niceties of language but also adept at sidestepping unproductive language disputes.

Once you've answered all five questions, press the "Submit answers" button to have your responses scored. If you're not sure of the answer to any question, why not take your best guess? (No points are deducted for wrong answers.) You'll need to get at least four answers right to be allowed to proceed. On the next page, you will be asked a final question that you must answer correctly in order to pass the exam. (On that page, you will also find the answers to these five questions explained.)

In each case, choose the sentence that you most nearly agree with.

Exquisite, polysyllabic, intricate English is invariantly to be preferred.
A person should talk however they want, to whoever they want.
A well-spoken person has a range of levels of language at his or her command, and for any given occasion tries to choose the appropriate one.
Its important to correct every mistake that others make in spelling, grammar, usage, punctuation, and pronounciation.
It's hard enough to get everything right oneself. Only when there's a particular reason to do so should one give unsolicited advice.
It's better to try not to notice whether or not people are making mistakes or not.
Niggardly is a known ethnic slur and must never be used.
The word niggardly is of Scandinavian origin and means "stingy," and everybody insulted by it deserve to be insulted frequently.
It doesn't really matter where the word niggardly came from -- it offends a lot of people and is therefore a risky word choice in most situations.
People with disabilities, like everybody else, should be treated honestly and forthrightly. That is why terms like differently abled and handicapable are suspect.
People with disabilities should be treated with pity and condescension. That is why terms like differently abled and handicapable are suspect.
People with disabilities should frequently be told as often as possible that they're better than everybody else. That's why terms like differently abled and handicapable are above reproach.
People who live in the United States, and no one else, is an American.
People who live in the United States are Americans, and in some contexts so are people who live elsewhere on the American continents.
People who live in the United States are not Americans.

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