Some Thoughts On My Experience Taking Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course

I have completed Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course. Some thoughts below.

Grammar Improvements & Weaknesses

This first section is about improvements in my grammar ability and a weakness that I realized.

  • I got a more thorough understanding of grammar, including some fine details like when to use the perfect infinitive. I like grammar πŸ™‚
  • I am paying more attention, on an automated basis, to various issues like parallelism, subject-verb agreement, and the use of appropriate clauses/phrases when writing.
  • I’m catching more errors than I used to in my own writing and in other people’s writing.
  • In terms of subject-specific weaknesses, my ability to readily connect the name of a tense and mood to a specific verb form is not good. Not a huge priority for me because I think it’s more of a naming-the-thing issue than an issue of screwing up what verb form to actually use, but it seems worth identifying the issue.

Value of Course for Getting Better at Learning

This section is about the value that I got from the course in terms of my overall learning ability/skill, as well as in terms of my motivation & confidence.

  • I got some practice with the idea of honestly self-evaluating my understanding and my errors, and doing so in public.
  • I improved my ability to take notes. At some point I realized my note-taking skills were below par and that was causing a problem. As a result, I consciously increased the level of detail in my notes, and that helped a bunch.
  • I had the positive experience of coming back to something that I had struggled with previously (the Peikoff course) and managing to succeed
  • I got some experience with moving through a large, complex body of material at a quick pace without getting stuck, which is something I haven’t done much of recently.
  • I wrote more than I’ve written in quite a long time (even though a lot of it was notes, it was still my attempt to organize some information + had my thoughts and comments).

Learning-Related Areas for Further Improvement

This section discusses areas for further improvement regarding future learning efforts.

  • I can still do better in terms of organizing things like notes and answers.
    • One specific thing I noticed is that sometimes I talk about something kind of generally – in a disorganized and wishy-washy way – rather than presenting bulleted points, giving yes/no answers, offering specific edits that I would make, and that sort of thing. This makes my material more difficult for others to read and more difficult for me to evaluate. So working on the skill of thinking about the most sensible way to organize what I’m writing seems important, as does making sure that I offer a clear final evaluation.
      • To that end, spending even a few minutes consciously thinking about the issue of writing organization before I write a bunch of stuff will probably help a lot. I’ve noticed myself having to spend time cleaning up organization issues later, so if I had a policy of thinking consciously about how to organize things at the beginning of writing, rather than just jumping right in, I’d probably save lots of time.
  • I can make better use of existing resources. For example, Anne B went through the course not that long ago, but I only thought to look at what she said and compare her answers to mine pretty late in the course.

Leonard Peikoff Grammar Course Final Examination

My answers to the final examination for Leonard Peikoff’s Grammar Course.

Final Exam Part I

Part I

I spent about two hours on this. Peikoff said you should ideally take an hour but I had things to say for 2 hours, so I didn’t see the point in making myself finish earlier. But I cut it off after 2 hours cuz I wanted it to somewhat capture what I could figure out in a reasonably short amount of time. I also had major computer slowdowns with ulysses that added some number of minutes. I did the exam “open book, open Internet.” I did confirm that one of the answers in Part I was subjunctive form by quickly googling while “taking” the exam, but otherwise focused on my notes and past homework, since I wanted to use the exam to judge what I had learned.

Although students of grammar who are educated usually want not only to study, but also to master their subject, some, suffice it to say, seem incapable of succeeding at this goal. The theory that every man is a natural grammarianβ€”which I had always heard when I was a childβ€”gives me the creeps, for it has been proved to be baseless.


Using the above paragraph, cite one example of the following. In each case, write only the necessary word(s).

For some I put more words than the instructions dictate cuz I think a few more words made it easier to figure out what I was referring to, since I planned to post this on my blog, but I bolded the critical words and scored according to those.

❌ 1. An infinitive that is the object of a verb in the indicative mood.

  • to be” baseless

Peikoff: “to study” and “to master” are only choices. I struggled on the questions re: identifying tense

βœ… 2. A coordinating conjunction. – for it has been proved…
βœ… 3. An indirect object. – gives me the creeps
βœ… 4. A pair of correlative conjunctions. not only … but also
❌ 5. A verb in the pluperfect tense. Β had always heardΒ  (should have just been “had … heard”)

Peikoff: verb is only “had … heard”.

βœ… 6. A verb in the passive voice. Β has been proved
βœ… 7. A verb in the subjunctive mood. suffice it to say (implied “let it suffice”, a wish, subjunctive)
βœ… 8. An appositive noun clause. Β that every man is a natural grammarian
βœ… 9. A subordinating conjunction that introduces an adverbial clause. when I was a child
βœ… 10. A main clause. it has been proved to be baseless
βœ… 11. A restrictive relative clause. Β who are educated
βœ… ❌ 12. A non-restrictive relative clause. Β which I had always heard when I was a child

Peikoff: including “when I was a child” is overinclusive, should just be “which I had always heard”

βœ… 13. An indefinite pronoun. Β some
βœ… 14. An adjectival prepositional phrase. Β of grammar
βœ… 15. A personal pronoun that is the subject of a main clause. Β it has been proved to be baseless.
βœ… 16. A past participle used as an adjective. Β educated
βœ… 17. A gerund. Β succeeding
βœ… 18. A slang expression. Β gives me the creeps
βœ… 19. An inflection that indicates a plural. Β students
❌ 20. The total number of clauses in the second sentence is: 8

I misread this without the qualifier “the second sentence”. Whoops.

Points for this section: 32/40.

Final Exam Part II

There are 31 deliberate errorsβ€”in grammar, punctuation and dictionβ€”in the following. Identify at least twenty of them, and correct each. Only outright errors qualify, not inadequacies or infelicities that are within the range of the optional.

Badly frightened, the bullet missed the manager who fell to his knees an hour earlier but it decimated a customer, Louise, a lady who is very attractive and revered by all. A tragic outcomeβ€”tragedy being where a major value is destroyed. The manager was profoundly shocked over the event. He sounded strangely when he spoke, like he had just awakened. β€œI wanted to have hired guards,” he said, β€œbut it was no dice. New York is both complicated and it costs too much. I could not approve of us spending money on them.” The manager had however once given gifts to his best customers being frantically worried about the new store across the street.

The killer was neither contrite nor did he grieve for my dear friend, Louise. β€œI have as much right to money as her,” the slob said, β€œand I will kill whomsoever stands in my path.” If one were to convert him philosophically, perhaps he will repent. I know philosophers swell with indignation when their concept structures are undermined. But such men are dangerous and each of them deserve to be attacked. They merely write words onto paper, thus causing suffering and destruction. This is what can happen in life.

Peikoff says to give yourself a point for grasping an error and two points for writing it correctly until you get 20 correct, and then after that you get bonus points of +1. I think he said you don’t have to rewrite to get the bonus, just identify the issue.
I’m not sure that the scoring system fully makes sense, or perhaps I don’t understand it. One issue is that you can get 2 points partial credit for a problem if you have 19/20 answers fully correct, but then only get 1 point if you hit 20 answers fully correct. Maybe the way to think about it is in multiple passes: you get full credit up until you have 20 answers correct or the point equivalent (so 60 points, including fully correct + partially correct). Then, once you hit that point, you start a separate pass where you count each partial credit answer as only 1 point. Okay I’ll try that.
– If I corrected the error but didn’t have a good/clear explanation as to what the error was, or gave a different error, or my explanation lacked an essential detail, then, following my interpretation of Peikoff, I gave myself only 2 points.
– If I identified an error but didn’t give say how to rewrite it, I gave myself one point. If I described how to write it correctly but didn’t actually write it out in quotes, or if I indicated a rewrite with a ” ->” instead of quotes, I count that as a rewrite. I didn’t rewrite the passage as a whole cuz I didn’t think that was required or necessary.
– Sometimes I made several different points about a section. If I identified an error in one part and corrected it in another, I sometimes marked one βœ… on the identification and 2 βœ… βœ… on the correction.

I put explanations of scoring/stuff that Peikoff said in (parentheses), and kept a running tally in (parentheses) as well. So stuff in (parentheses) is typically from my scoring pass through the exam. I also went back and added some formatting afterwards so it’d appear nicer in my blog – as I did the first pass under (pretty mild) time pressure, it was a bit messy.

If there are no βœ… or ❌ next to a point that means Peikoff didn’t really address it or didn’t see a problem there.

“Badly frightened”

1) βœ… βœ… βœ… This is a dangling participle. A rewrite would be “the bullet missed the badly frightened manager.”
(1 fully correct so far)

“who fell to his knees”

  • 2) βœ… βœ… βœ… comma needed for clarity. Without a comma before “who fell to his knees”, it sounds like the bullet missed the falling-to-his-knees manager as opposed to the other types.
  • 3) βœ… βœ… βœ…- presumably it should be “who had fallen to his knees”, since I think the passage is trying to say that the bullet missed the manager on account of him already having been on his knees, and not that the bullet missed the manager and then the manager fell to his knees
  • (3 fully correct so far)

“an hour earlier but it decimated”

(Peikoff meant this as referring to the manager falling to his knees an hour earlier)

  • 4) This super vague, maybe missing something. First of all, “an hour earlier” just seems misplaced. Also, “it” appears to be referring to a bullet but it is unclear to me if it is referring to the same bullet or a different bullet an hour earlier, or even the killer. I think the fix here is for the thought to be completed….
  • 5) βœ… βœ… βœ… “decimated” – wrong word for this context. You decimate an army but not a person. You probably want “killed” or “wounded” or something depending on the facts.
  • (4 fully correct so far)

customer, Louise, a lady”

  • 6) noun pileup I think. See fix below.
  • 7) “a lady who is very attractive” – it’s kind of weird to bring up attractiveness this directly when you’re talking about somebody getting shot.
  • 8) βœ… Is “is” actually correct for “is very attractive”? Is she still alive? Maybe “was”?
  • 9) “and revered by all” – this may be another denotation issue. maybe “loved” or “beloved”, but I doubt she’s revered, and I doubt “all” were involved.
  • βœ… βœ… Rewrite: “a lovely woman by the name of Louise, who was loved by many in the community.”

(5 fully correct so far)

Louise, a lady who is very attractive and revered by all.

10) ❌ ❌ ❌ (missed this issue – this used “is” to both as a linking verb and as an auxiliary for “revered”)

A tragic outcomeβ€”tragedy being where a major value is destroyed.”

11) βœ… βœ… ❌ (Didn’t quite fully state the error, but identified it and made an appropriate correction)

I think since “tragedy” is a noun and “being” is the present participle of “to be”, we don’t want a “where” clause but something else e.g. “tragedy being a situation in which a major value is destroyed.”

12) But then there are two bigger issues:
– βœ… “A tragic outcome” is a sentence fragment
– the whole part after the dash is a weirdly long aside trying to define tragedy in this context.
– βœ… βœ… If I even kept this at all I’d say “This was a tragic outcome.”

(6 fully correct + 2 points so far)

13) ❌ ❌ ❌ (missed – “shocked over” should be “shocked by” – idiom issue.)

“profoundly shocked”

14) strike “profoundly”. Trite.

15) βœ… ❌ ❌ (I spotted + fixed issue but didn’t give reasoning. Furthermore, my answer is a bit vague, could be read as saying I should replace the whole thing with strange and not just the adverb) “He sounded strangely” -> strange, we want an adjective here.

(6 fully correct + 3 points so far)

16) βœ… βœ… βœ… “like he had just awakened. ” -> as if he had just awakened, “like” is a preposition and can’t take a whole main clause as an object.

(7 fully correct + 3 points so far)

β€œI wanted to have hired guards,”

17) βœ… βœ… βœ… – incorrect infinitive tense here, you would only use “to have hired” if the infinitive action came before the main verb, but here “wanted” is already in the past, and he didn’t want to do the hiring before the wanting, so it should be “I wanted to hire guards”.

(8 fully correct + 3 points so far)

“but it was no dice.”

18) βœ… βœ… βœ… slang, instead say “but I could not.”

(9 fully correct + 3 points so far)

“New York is both complicated and it costs too much.”

19) βœ… βœ… ❌ (Did not actually identify error) strike “both” and the second “it” – Β “New York is complicated and costs too much.”Β 

(9 fully correct + 5 points so far)

“I could not approve of us spending money on them.”

20) – this is switching persons in the middle, from I to us. Who is “us”?
21) – βœ… βœ… ❌ (didn’t describe this as a fused participle) b) the “us” is a noun pileup since it’s right next to the “spending” gerund. should be “our”.

❌ ❌ ❌(missed that “them” is vague)

(9 fully correct + 7 points so far)

“The manager had however”

22) βœ… βœ… βœ… this should have commas around the “however”, since this adverbial element is being dropped in the middle of the verb phrase “had given”.

(10 fully correct + 7 points so far)

“being frantically worried”

23) βœ… βœ… βœ… this could arguably be seen as modifying customers and not the manager. So it should be moved to the front:

Being frantically worried about the new store across the street, the manager had, however, once given gifts to his best customers.

(11 fully correct + 7 points so far)

24) Strike “frantically” since I doubt he was frantic about it. Replace with “concerned” or something like that.

Paragraph 2

The killer was neither contrite nor did he grieve for my dear friend, Louise.

25) βœ… βœ… βœ… This is not parallel. A parallel construction would be something like “The killer showed neither grief nor contrition for my dear friend Louise.”
26) βœ… βœ… βœ… The comma should be stricken after “Louise” since the fact that Louise is the friend is essential information.

(13 fully correct + 7 points so far)

β€œI have as much right to money as her,”

27) βœ… βœ… ❌(I said that the issue was “idiom”, but the issue is that there is an implied subject; my rewrite was correct but my description was iffy)

I think the idiom here would be “as she does”, not “as her”, but I’m not sure why.

(13 fully correct + 9 points)

the slob said,

28) βœ… βœ… βœ… Potential issue with “slob”. Colloquial? Try “man” or “killer”.

(14 fully correct + 9 points)

β€œand I will kill whomsoever stands in my path.”

29) βœ… βœ… βœ… I think that “whomsoever stands in my path.” is serving as an object, as the X of the “I will kill X” sentence, and “whomsoever” is serving as the subject within the clause “whomsoever stands in my path”, so it should be “whosoever”,
30) and possibly “whoever” since “whosoever” sounds a bit archaic to my ear. (Peikoff agreed but i think this was something he considered an aesthetic point, not an error)

(15 fully correct + 9 points)

If one were to convert him philosophically, perhaps he will repent.

31) βœ… βœ… βœ… Since we are speaking in hypotheticals, we need the subjunctive and thus to say perhaps he WOULD repent.

(16 fully correct + 9 partial points)

I know philosophers swell with indignation when their concept structures are undermined.

32) βœ… βœ… βœ… need a “that” before “philosophers” for this noun object clause.
33) βœ… βœ… ❌ (peikoff thinks it is a half-dead metaphor; I did fix the issue though)
idiom issue here? I think you can swell with pride but not with indignation. Try “philosophers are indignant”
34) βœ… βœ… ❌ (I didn’t say what was wrong – we want to avoid noun pileup) “concept” should be “conceptual”.

(17 fully correct + 13 partial points)

But such men are dangerous and each of them deserve to be attacked.

35) ❌ ❌ ❌ (Peikoff disagrees)
Are “such men” people like the killer or the philosophers? VAGUE REFERENT.
36) (Peikoff is okay with starting a sentence with But).
I forget if Peikoff specifically addressed this, but many grammarians of the old school would take issue with starting a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. This can be remedied by replacing the “But” with a “Nevertheless”.
37) βœ… (Peikoff thinks not strictly necessary but he’s open to it) A comma is needed before “and”
38) βœ… βœ… βœ… “each” is singular, so “deserve” should be “deserves”.

(18 fully correct + 14 partial points)

They merely write words onto paper, thus causing suffering and destruction.

39) ❌ ❌ ❌ (Peikoff thought the merely should go at the beginning).
I’m confused by “merely”. If your activity is “causing suffering and destruction” then it sounds like a big-deal activity and not a “merely”. Strike “merely”.

(Peikoff notes lots of people didn’t know what this sentence was trying to convey the last time he gave this exam).

40) βœ… βœ… βœ…
I think “onto” is the wrong preposition and that we want “on paper”.

41) ❌ ❌ ❌ (Peikoff had in mind reversing subordination)
I’m not sure about “thus” but I don’t have a specific criticism.

This is what can happen in life.

I didn’t have an edit for this.

42) ❌ ❌ ❌(missed: Peikoff had in mind vague referent for this).

(19 fully correct + 14 partial points)

Based on scoring rubric I said earlier, where I downgraded the partial points to 1pt after hitting 60pts total, I think I got 60 + 5 bonus points on Part 2. So I got 97 total, though with the caveat that I took longer than Peikoff suggests and I might not be a very objective grader (though I tried, and I think self-assessment is a good thing to try being objective about).

Leonard Peikoff Grammar Course Homework 7


  • βœ… for correct,
  • ❌ for incorrect answer or missed issue entirely,
  • βœ… ❌ for partially correct,
  • ⁇ for points I raised that were not addressed in lecture,
  • ❗️for stuff I thought was interesting, and
  • 😬 for problems that I was low confidence on when I answered them.

I give both an overall mark to each problem and individual marks to subparts.

I had a lot of trouble with ambiguity as to what was intended by the various expressions in this exercise. I managed to keep moving forward anyways. I speculate that it is perhaps challenging to “break” sentences or passages in certain ways without rendering them ambiguous, since a big part of the standard by which we judge an “unbroken” sentence is its clarity.

The instructions for 1 through 9 are:

Identify any errors or deficiencies in diction.

In some cases I do rewrites despite that not being asked for until later problems.

At the very beginning of the homework review, before doing problem 1, Peikoff specifies that the implication is that all of these should be formal English. That’s a pretty important instruction that was not specified in the homework instructions. In some cases I updated my answers to be in formal English.

βœ…βŒ Problem 1

The soloist at Carnegie Hall scampered across the stage and tucked his fiddle under his chin.

βœ… “Scamper.” Replace the word “scamper”. I think this is a connotation issue and not a denotation issue per se. The word “scamper” has a connotation/association with children that would typically be odd to bring up in the context of a soloist at Carnegie Hall (unless one were actually describing a child, going for humorous effect, or some other special context.) “walked” or “ran” or “hurried” would be better (depending on the meaning intended).

Peikoff: Bad connotation for a dignified context like Carnegie Hall.

βœ… “Tucked”. (Wrote a lot, but at the end of the day I said I would change the tucked)

“tucked his fiddle under his chin” is drawing a lot of attention to a particular act associated with playing the fiddle (the tucking). If that’s the intention and the context is appropriate for that, then that’s okay. The language adds a bit of color. Otherwise, “prepared to play his fiddle” would be a less vivid but more neutral description. Depending on the intent, there is a potential level of abstraction issue here. I’m going to leave it as is, though.

My rewrite:

The soloist at Carnegie Hall [hurried] across the stage and tucked his fiddle under his chin.

Update: With Peikoff’s clarification that he intended formal English, I’d rewrite this, removing the tucked bit:

The soloist at Carnegie Hall [hurried] across the stage and [prepared to play his fiddle].

Peikoff: “Tucked” has a formal usage (as in tucking in a mattress sheet) but that is inapplicable here.

❌ (missed this issue) – fiddle is a colloquial word for violin.

βœ… ⁇ ❗️ Problem 2

He was oblivious to the noise, being completely absorbed in the chemical solution which he was preparing. (F&S)

βœ… Replace “absorbed in”. Peikoff might classify this as a half-dead metaphor coming back to bite you. The choice of “absorbed” is unfortunate and makes this sentence sound like a description of a Joker origin story. One definition of absorb is “To suck up; to drink in; to imbibe; as a sponge or as the lacteals of the body.” (Webster’s 1913) So it sounds like the guy is possibly submerged in the chemical solution, when presumably the intent is that he’s really focused on preparing the chemical solution.

Peikoff: LP says it’s a metaphor issue.

⁇ (not addressed by LP) “Which he was preparing” could be expressed as “the preparation of” and moved around elsewhere in the sentence:


He was oblivious to the noise, being completely [focused on] the preparation of the chemical solution.

❗️ (missed this issue but Peikoff says it’s dying off) “oblivious to”. Peikoff says this is a subtle issue and this distinction may be dying out, but the idiom here is “oblivious of”, not “oblivious to”.

βœ…βŒπŸ˜¬ Problem 3

He alluded to the fact in no uncertain terms. The doctors, he said, had never discovered the source of his headache.

❌ (this is an irrelevant issue I brought up due to missing the main issue in the sentence) “Fact”. Which fact is “the fact” referring to? The passage almost wants to read like “He alluded to the fact [that] the doctors [had] never discovered the source of the headache.” It is possible that I am misunderstanding the intent.

βœ… Strike “in no uncertain terms” as a trite expression or unnecessary qualifier.

But then we have a problem, which is that the passage becomes:

He alluded to the fact[]. The doctors, he said, had never discovered the source of his headache.

The second sentence brings up the fact that he said stuff, but doesn’t bring up the fact that he said so “in no uncertain terms.” So let’s bring back the essence of idea of alluding to something “in no uncertain terms”, which I take to be that the idea was alluded to forcefully. So, strike the entire first sentence, and then slip an adverb in the former second sentence, which is now the only sentence:

The doctors, he said forcefully, had never discovered the source of his headache.

I still don’t like this sentence. Seems better than what we started with, though. The main story here seems like it should be the failure of the doctors to discover the source of the headache. By cutting the stuff about allusion we make the remaining stuff about the doctors more prominent. Ideally, we’d have a quote, and could just say:

“The doctors have never discovered the source of my headache”, he said forcefully.

But we weren’t given a quote so we’ve gotta do the best with what we have.

❌ (Missed this issue because I had trouble figuring out what was going on in this passage) – Alluded is wrong. An allusion is an indirect/inexplicit reference but the sentence contradicts that by saying the guy said stuff in no uncertain terms.

Analysis: I was very focused on the relationship between the sentences and missed a much easier/simpler issue that Peikoff had in mind. Once I heard Peikoff describe the issue, it became super clear to me what the problem was – so much so that I’m not sure how I missed it.

❌ (Missed this issue) The word “source” in the second sentence is wrong. Should be “cause”.

A cause is that which produces. A source is that from which something came or began.

βœ…βŒ ⁇ 😬 Problem 4

Although he is a cynic certain of nothing, he was very prepared for our meeting and anxious to get a raise; in fact, he was liable to do anything to get it.

βœ… (Giving myself credit for this one cuz I identified the issue, even though I waffled some on what to do). Denotation issue re: “cynic.” I think the intent is to say that he’s a skeptic certain of nothing. A cynic is someone who thinks the worst of people – a skeptic is someone who is certain of nothing. So possibly strike “cynic” and replace with “skeptic”. Although I suppose you could say that since cynicism is about thinking the worst of people, maybe the context being implied here is that he doesn’t trust other people not to try to screw him out of a raise. So I’m not sure.

⁇ (was not addressed by Peikoff) Denotation issue. Why “although”? Being certain of nothing doesn’t seem to contradict being prepared for stuff. In fact, if one is certain of nothing, it seems like one might try to be overprepared, since one can’t take anything for granted (impossible to live by this approach IRL but you could try to overprepare for lots of stuff on a selective basis). Also the whole expression is wordy. “Being cynical” (or “Being skeptical” if my last paragraph is right) would be way shorter.

βœ…βŒβ—οΈ(I identified that there was an issue with the word “very”, but Peikoff had some reasoning and nuance I was not aware of). Strike the “very”. Pointless intensifier.

Peikoff: In formal usage, “very” cannot be used to modify a participle. You have to say something like “He was very much distressed”, or “he was too-well prepared”. This is an idiom issue, according to LP. I have never heard of this before.

❌ (got the nature of the issue wrong) Possibly strike “;in fact, he was liable to do anything to get it.” because “liable to do anything to get it.” is trite. It also may be wrong. Is the intention actually that the guy under discussion would be willing to e.g. commit murder for a raise?

Peikoff: Peikoff says “liable” is the wrong word – means to be held accountable, responsible – and what you want is “likely” to suggest probability. Liable sounded okay to me. Random House Webster’s has the following usage note:

❌(missed issue) “Anxious” is wrong. The word you want here is eager.
Analysis: I agree that would be the better word.

βœ… Problem 5

In ancient Egypt, the stature of statues was established by statute.

Euphony violation. Rewrite:

In ancient Egypt, the height of statues was established by law.

βœ…βŒ Problem 6

These activities are employed sooner or later by lots of visitors. Some get a huge kick out of football; the balance are into tennis or golf.

βœ…βŒ Strike “employed” (wrong word) and replace with “enjoyed.”
Peikoff: points out that the best revision would be to talk in terms of games being played.

βœ… “get a huge kick out of” is awkward to use to talk about football. Metaphorical usage of kick is clashing with a situation where you actually kick things. Strike and replace with “enjoy” or “play”.

βœ…”the balance” seems a bit awkward here to juxtapose with “some”. Try “others” or “the rest”.

❌ (missed issue) “lots of” is colloquial for “many”. Remember that this is supposed to be formal English.

βœ…βŒ ⁇ Problem 7

The ship limped into port in the nick of time with its best foot forward. Do you plan on boarding her?

βœ…”Limped into port” is pretty standard but might be trite for that very reason. I would leave it in anyways and strike the rest of the metaphors.

βœ… Strike “in the nick of time with its best foot forward”. Mixed metaphor, vague.

Peikoff refers to “limped into port in the nick of time with its best foot forward” as a “pile of bromides”. He also points out that there is an unfortunate contrast between the “limping” and the “best foot forward”, heh.

⁇ (Peikoff didn’t address the following point about “her” directly — a student brought up that there might be a consistency issue, I think between “her” and “ship”, but the colloquialness was not addressed).

“her” is pretty colloquial re: a ship, so this may be a connotation/formality issue. Maybe “it” would be better depending on the context. Update: given that the context is supposed to be formal English, definitely get rid of “her” and replace with it.

❌ (missed this issue) the idiom is “plan to”, not “plan on”.

βœ…βŒ ⁇ Problem 8

Thanks to pragmatism, the means of education at the disposal of Americans are stunted and sterilized.

⁇(Peikoff didn’t address) “at the disposal” sounds a bit weird in this context. Like I think of servants or lower rank people being at your disposal, not education. Maybe “available” would be better? “means of” is unnecessary.

βœ…βŒ (I noted that it was vague, and Peikoff says it’s overly abstract, so there is some overlap there, but Peikoff brought in an additional point). “stunted and sterilized” seems a bit over the top in terms of metaphor. Also kinda vague. It’s not that long though, could keep it if you want. Two things like that seems like okay alliteration.

Peikoff: “stunted and sterilized” is being applied to “means”. “Means of education” is a very abstract and thus a bad match for a “stunted and sterilized” metaphor, because stunted and sterilized are terms that generally come up in a biological context.

βœ… If this was a formal context, “Thanks to” might be too informal. You could do a one-word edit though and change “Thanks” to “Due” without making it stuffy. Hey it’s even shorter πŸ™‚
Shorter than many other equivalent expressions (see definition 2)

Peikoff: Acknowledges that “thanks to” could be a bit colloquial, though he seems to think it’s not a major issue.


Due to pragmatism, American education is stunted and sterile.

βœ… Problem 9

  1. (a) The resettling of his establishment in New York engendered in him a substantive degree of vituperative affect.

lol. Super excessive wordiness. “Resettling”, “establishment”, “engendered” “substantive”, “degree”, “vituperative”, “affect” (affect indeed! πŸ™ƒ)

BTW to me, “establishment” connotes a business, but Webster’s 1913 says it could mean either business or residence:

I think one could talk of getting “established” in a new place one moved to, but would generally not talk of an “establishment.” The sentence is pretty ambiguous in terms of whether the context is residence or business.

I don’t want to go through each single overly wordy word carefully to look for the perfect wording, so here’s a rewrite with something like the same content:

Moving his business to New York caused him much anger.

Part 2 of the problem:

(b) He got plenty mad after locating in N.Y.

Very casual/colloquial/slangy, on account of “got”, “plenty”, “mad” and the abbreviation “N.Y.”.

Peikoff: LP passes over this example pretty quickly. I think I got the general idea. An additional point he mentions is that in the wordy version, the actor (he) isn’t the subject.

βœ… Problem 10

The instruction for problem 10 is:

Rewrite informal English.

I wonder if there is a typo here, and this was meant to be “Rewrite in formal English”, or if it is saying to rewrite this english that is informal. I’m guessing it is the former, because Peikoff actually used the term “Formal English” in lecture but referred to other stuff as “colloquial English” or “slang” respectively.

The statement:

He could’ve been cool if he’d had it more together.

Random House Webster’s gives the following definitions for “cool” as slang:

And for “together” the same dictionary says: gives the following for “get it together”, which seems related:

IMHO the original statement is unclear. I can try to interpret it as best as I can though.

“He could have been a fine individual if he were more well-adjusted.”

Seems okay.

Peikoff: The point of this was to show how vague it was and how many different ways it could be interpreted. Mission accomplished!

βœ…βŒπŸ˜¬ Problem 11

Distinguish among the following:

first word:


βœ…βŒ (got some of the idea of internal motivation that Peikoff describes, but didn’t state the issue with full clarity)

Webster’s Third:

So a motive is about why someone is doing something.

A motive could be things like: curiosity, interest, love, passion, vengeance, an ideological motivation, a desire for food or shelter, etc.



Webster’s Third:

So an end is kind of like a long-range goal that you put lots of effort or planning into.


❌ (purpose has some longer range connotation, contrary to what I say, below, but end has an even longer range connotation. I seem to have actually grasped this in my examples but I misstate the issue here)

Webster’s Third:

So a purpose seems similar to an end but lacks the longer-range connotations of that, maybe?



For goal, Webster’s third gives the following definitions:

So a goal seems like something more concrete and specific that you’re aiming to get (especially in light of the connection to a racing mark).

So you might have a savings goal of $500 a month, or a goal of writing 1000 words a day. Goals seem like they would often be tied to numbers (not necessarily, but it makes more sense to talk about a “savings goal” than a “savings end”.)

That said, you could talk about bigger picture things in terms of goals (changing the world), but I’m trying to tease out the differences in the words here.

Some concrete examples where I try to contrast end/goals/purpose/motive.

Guy with a family saving for a Disney Trip:
1. Motive: A desire for leisure, enjoyment, making family happy.
2. End: Having an overall happy family life/happy life.
3. Purpose: Having the resources to take a trip this coming summer.
4. Goal: Having X dollars saved by June.

Founding Fathers fighting the British:
1. Motive: desire for liberty & freedom from oppression
2. End: the establishment of a long-lasting system of free government for themselves and their posterity.
3. Purpose: establish, in the near-term, a government that respects individual rights.
4. Goal: defeat the British military.

Rand talks about motive, purpose, ends and goals here:

The motive and purpose of my writing is the projection of an ideal man. The portrayal of moral ideal, as my ultimate literary goal, as an end in itself to which any didactic, intellectual or philosophical values contained in a novel are only the means.


According to most dictionaries, motive is about inner state that prompts you to act, and the other three — end, goal, and purpose — refer to outer things you want to accomplish.

Purpose implies a long range course of action. End is even longer range.
For example:

The purpose of law is to resolve disputes. The end of law is liberty.

Goal has less agreement re: what it means. But goal is broader and include unconscious entities. Also goals are more specific and concrete.

βœ…βŒ Problem 12

Rewrite, making the adjectives more specific.

The girl looked nice (though her boyfriend was big), and the movie was no good. So Bill decided to speak to her. It was a bad mistake.

IMHO there is an ambiguity re: “big” in light of “though.” Is “big” establishing a contrast with “nice”? Like, is there something bad about the “big”? E.g. is the boyfriend fat? Or on the other hand, are we being told that the boyfriend is big as in muscular or something like that because that helps establish some context as to why Bill deciding to speak to the girl was a bad mistake?

Bill saw an alluring girl while watching a movie. The movie was poor, so Bill decided to speak to the girl despite the presence of her muscular boyfriend. This decision was a terrible mistake.

Peikoff thinks that words like “terrible” are trite. I’m not sure.

Looking back, I think “the movie was poor” isn’t great idiomatically. “The film was poor” or “The movie was boring” would be better.