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Word nerd or not, these challenges are fun ways to feed your brain. Click on each crush to get the answer and explanation. Give us a shout if you have any questions.

Book Cover Challenges


1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime

by Mark Haddon

3. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgentstern



This group of actors, although rambunctious, is always on time for rehearsals.

What? Why?

The subject of the sentence is GROUP, a singular noun. There might be 5 actors in that group or there might be 153, but it is still ONE group. Singular nouns get singular verbs. The GROUP IS ON TIME.

Strip down the sentence to its basic parts when you are unsure. What's the basic subject? What's it doing?

1. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

3. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zasuk

5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

6. Misery by Stephen King



I felt bad for the people in the last row.

What? Why?

You're saying, "No! It needs to be an -ly word!" And, yes, ACTION VERBS get adverbs (typically ending in -ly). But FELT is not an action verb here. It is a linking verb, a verb that shows emotion or your state of being. You wouldn't say "I felt happily" or "I felt dejectedly."

We FEEL bad or happy or dejected or elated or excited. Otherwise, what you are really saying when you say "I feel badly" is I'm a bad feeler, as in I do a bad job engaging in the physical action of feeling something... that dog's fur, for example. I'm bad at feeling it. (And then you'd really feel bad!)

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events by

Lemony Snicket

3. Normal People by Sally Rooney

4. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

6. The Watchman by Alan Moore



That trailer really piqued my interest.

What? Why?


•Piqued is to excite or stimulate

•Peak is the highest point.

Our interest gets stimulated... in this case by a cool film trailer.

1. eleanor & park by Rainbow Rowell

2. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

5. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

6. City of Thieves by David Benioff


She wandered throughout Manhattan, enjoying the buildings that cast shadows across the pavement.

What? Why?

There are different ways to pare down the sentence. This is one. The original is filled with redundancy (aimlessly, wandered, without direction, for example, are all synonymous), and uses the helping verb + -ing form of verbs, a construction that you should usually avoid. Try the past tense (cast versus was casting).

Too many words can muddle your writing and make it less sophisticated. Concise is best.

Each word should serve a specific and unique purpose.


Thank you for meeting with me last week.

What? Why?

Your goal is to make your point as directly as possible. That does not mean leave out details. It means that each word serves a specific and unique purpose. In the original sentence, the writer wants to THANK someone. So... thank them!

Often, we think that adding words will make us sound more sophisticated. In actuality, it does the opposite. It shows a lack of command of language.

  Let's keep this between you and me.

What? Why?

BETWEEN is a preposition. All pronouns that come after a preposition must be in the OBJECTIVE form (him, her, them, us, me). This rule is called Object of the Preposition.

Common Prepositions: Under, over, near, across, to, of, off, between, from


√Throw the ball to HIM. (not he)

√The secret is between you and ME. (not I)

√I'm going across the street to see Ziggy and HER. (not she)


On Fridays, I listen to my mom and dad's vinyl collection of music from the 80s. It's my favorite day.

What? Why?

Apostrophes show possession or create a contraction. They DO NOT show plural (Yes, there's one tiny exception to this rule, but we're not going there now.) There are two headbangers in this sentence:

        •Mom and dad's. Apostrophe comes after the second item in the compound noun. The collection belongs to the single unit mom and dad. It's their one collection.

      •80s- DATES DO NOT GET APOSTROPHES. 1980s, the roaring 20s, the 2000s


There are a lot of local heroes definitely making big differences in our town.

What? Why?

There/Their/They're. There is an adverb that specifies place. (An adverb? Really? Yes.) Their is possessive for "they." They're is a contraction for "they are."

A LOT. It's two words. Think of it as "a group" or "a gang." A lot of people came for dinner.

Heroes. Do not use an apostrophe to make a word plural.

Definitely. This is how you most definitely spell it. It's DEFINITE + ly.

Our is possessive of us. The dog belongs to us. It is ours. Are is a linking verb.


The smells and colors of the garden are different from past year's.

What? Why?

•The subject is made up of two items: smells and colors. You need the plural verb ARE. Smells and colors ARE...

•Different FROM not Different THAN. I know. This is going to drive most people crazy. The rule is an old one, and so many people break it that it feels obsolete. Still, in almost all cases, DIFFERENT couples with FROM. Now that you know the rule, you'll be forever annoyed when you see it broken. You're welcome.

• There are a couple ways to fix the last mistake. First, you have to pinpoint what is being compared. Here, it's the smells and colors of this year's garden with those of last year's garden. You can drop the garden but you must have the possessive (belonging to) YEAR.


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