Meet the new grammar ‘Superpower’ — North Dakota

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Oh, North Dakota, I have long defended your good name from those who would besmirch it. I always take your side, North Dakota, even though I’m from that much better and prettier state to the east (i.e. Minnesota).

When people tell me North Dakota is nothing more than boring flatland and “a whole bunch of nothing,” I’m the one who interrupts to say, “Wait, North Dakotans are some of the nicest people anywhere. And have you been to Teddy Roosevelt National Park or the International Peace Garden?”

Now it turns out there is a very good reason to laud North Dakota and its people. They get high marks in grammar and writing.

As it turns out, an organization called NoRedInk, which helps build stronger writers through its curriculum and adaptive exercises for students, just completed an analysis of the top 10 writing errors of 2017. NoRedInk analyzed 3 million U.S. students in grades 5 to 12, who answered 1 billion questions last year to measure their writing skills.

Here’s the big revelation: North Dakota is the best state in the nation for the proper use of “their,” “they’re” and “there,” just edging out Delaware.

And guess which state is a grammar “Superpower.” Yep — North Dakota. The state got the best grammar error rate of any state, at 32.7 percent, and had the best use of progressive tenses.

Minnesota didn’t make the cut for any of the top 10 Superpowers of grammar, I sadly have to admit.

Montana, however, was declared a Superpower for prepositional phrases. Who knew? Nebraska got the best marks for using “two,” “too” and “to” correctly.

Not surprisingly, the top grammar usage error across the board was the lay versus lie usage. It’s one of those things that can trip the best of writers. To quote directly from the Associated Press stylebook, “the action word is lay. It takes a direct object. Laid is the form for its past tense and its past participle. Its present participle is laying.”

Therefore, it’s wrong to say “He lays on the beach all day,” or “I will lay down.” The correct use is “He lies on the beach all day. I will lie down.”

Other prevalent usage errors include the proper use of among and between, discreet versus discrete and farther versus further.

This is probably too much information for those who aren’t grammar wonks. For those of us who write for a living, it’s interesting stuff.

Here are a few more fun facts from NoRedInk:

• Only 30 percent of students can identify the subject of a sentence.

• Only one in three students can identify wordy, unnecessary and redundant language.

• Washington (the state, not D.C.) is the best at distinguishing facts from opinions, just edging out Connecticut.

So here’s to North Dakota and its language prowess. You’ve earned my respect, yet again.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or

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