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

Here at Knowadays, 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!

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Join the Conversation

Shari says:
December 26, 2021 at 4:04PM
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!
    Proofreading Academy says:
    January 4, 2022 at 10:41AM
    Glad you found it helpful, Shari!
Alan Steele says:
December 31, 2021 at 9:57AM
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.
    Proofreading Academy says:
    January 4, 2022 at 10:33AM
    Apologies, Alan! We should have either localised this post or specified the dialect to use. Hope you enjoyed the exercise all the same.
Chris says:
January 19, 2022 at 6:09AM
I missed the question mark and the "little old" switch. I may have caught that switch if it was regular prose and not poetry.
Cordelia Bryan says:
March 22, 2022 at 12:42PM
An enjoyable exercise. Shouldn't there be a comma between old and little? Also, the first and majority of instances have the name written as St. Nicholas, but there is one instance in the 5th paragraph where it is written as St. Nick. Should this not be changed to St. Nicholas, or change all the instances of St. Nicholas to St. Nick, depending on the author's preference, to keep it consistent throughout?
    Proofreading Academy says:
    March 22, 2022 at 4:29PM
    Hi, Cordelia. Glad you enjoyed the exercise! In response to your questions: 1) Typically, you only need a comma between adjectives when they are coordinate (i.e., when they modify a word in a similar way). In this case, though, "old" tells us about the age of the person being described and "little" describes their size, so they're not coordinate. The issue that does need addressing there is to do with adjective order, since adjectives related to size typically come before those related to age, so the more conventional phrasing would be "little old driver." You can find out more about adjective order (lesson 5.3) and coordinate adjectives (lesson 6.2) in the Becoming A Proofreader course if you haven't already signed up! 2) While consistency of terminology is important in many documents (e.g., in academic writing where it is important to avoid ambiguity), it does depend on the context! This is a poem, so there's no real need for consistency as long as it's clear that "St. Nicholas" and "St. Nick" refer to the same person (and given that they're both common names for Santa Claus, that shouldn't be a problem here). In addition, changing "St. Nick" to "St. Nicholas" in the line you mention would lose the rhyme with "quick" in the preceding line, so prioritizing consistency here would have a negative impact on the style of the poem. This is therefore a handy example of why it's vital to consider the different factors at play when making changes as an editor or proofreader, as the rhyme scheme here is definitely more important than complete consistency. We hope those answers clarify things slightly, but let us know if you have any more questions.

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