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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.

Reference Division
Entrance Exam


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

1. A gentle soul of your acquaintance has been using a word that has a crude meaning of which she is surely unaware. You would like to point this out to her, without being crude yourself. Therefore you are looking for a word with just the right connotations to describe the problem. You consult a

style manual
usage manual
thesaurus
soothsayer
2. As possibilities for the word you need, you find improper and indecorous. To help you choose between them, you consult a

dictionary of synonyms or a dictionary
sortileger
thesaurus
usage manual or a style manual
3. You decide you like indecorous, but you realize that you're not sure how to pronounce it. You consult a

dictionary of synonyms
prognosticator
style manual
none of the above
4. Now you can't decide whether it would be correct to say "This is one of several words that are indecorous" or "This is one of several words that is indecorous." You consult a

usage manual, looking under number
usage manual, looking under of
thaumaturge, looking in the Yellow Pages
thesaurus, looking under indecorous
5. Having accomplished your mission, you return to Word Police headquarters to write up a report. As you write, you realize that you are italicizing words used as words, and you wonder whether you should be putting quotation marks around them instead. You consult a

dictionary of quotations or a dictionary
changeling
style manual
encyclopedia

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