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A Visit from St. Nicholas (A Festive Proofreading Quiz)

Here at Proofreading Academy, we know the best way to improve your proofreading skills is to get lots of practice. And what better way to practice than with a festive proofreading exercise?

All you need to do is copy and paste the poem below into a Microsoft Word document and see how many errors you can spot (hint: there should be 11 in total). There is some archaic language and non-standard comma usage in the poem, which you don’t need to correct.

When you’re ready, download the document below to see the answers. Good luck!

Spot the Errors

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter?
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature slay and eight tiny reindeer.

With an old little driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now, dasher! Now, dancer! Now, prancer and vixen!
On, comet! On, cupid! On, donner and blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As leaves that before the wild huricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew,
With the slay full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof,
The prancing pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flinged on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed. Like a bowl full of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, an right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his slay, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

How Did You Do?

You can check your answers by downloading this document and reviewing the tracked changes. You’ll also see comments with some extra information about why we’ve made a correction in each case. When you’re done, let us know your score in the comments below!

Becoming a Proofreader

We hope you enjoyed our festive proofreading quiz. If you’d like to learn more about spelling, punctuation, grammar, and various writing styles, our Becoming A Proofreader course will teach you everything you need to know. You can also sign up for a free trial!

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  1. Argh! I missed the last quotation mark! I wasn’t focusing as hard as I usually do. Also, I had to read through twice because I realized that being familiar with the piece meant my brain was filling in the words itself, making me skip over things and almost missing mistakes! That’s a fun thing to realize – proofreading a familiar work may need more care!

  2. I got most of the errors but also included the omission of the full stop after “St.” abbreviation of ‘Saint’ because I used UK English to proofread it.

    1. Apologies, Alan! We should have either localised this post or specified the dialect to use. Hope you enjoyed the exercise all the same.

  3. I missed the question mark and the “little old” switch. I may have caught that switch if it was regular prose and not poetry.

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