You'd be amazed at the difference one letter can make sometimes.
Take for instance this recent quiz on MSNBC.com that aimed to replicate questions on the real-life civics test one must take to become a naturalized citizen of the United States.
I went through the quiz and was pleased at how I did when reviewing my results. Then I noticed I got a question correct that I really shouldn't have.
15. How many representatives are there in Congress?
Except that's not entirely correct at all. The tricky thing about this question is that it asks how many representatives there are in Congress, not how many Representatives there are in Congress.
Let me go back to high school history class for a moment: Congress is made up of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the Senate, each state is represented by two members. In the House, representatives are determined by the population in Congressional districts. Members of the Senate are called Senators and members of the House of Representatives are called Representatives... and this is where things went horribly wrong on MSNBC's part.
A Representative describes only a Representative, but a representative (note the lower-case "r") can, by definition, describe both a Senator and a Representative. Savvy?
At the beginning of MSNBC's quiz it notes that they took all of their questions straight from sample materials available on the official United States Immigration and Naturalization Services website. I had to know if we were confusing the hell out of people trying to become naturalized citizens with this question.
I decided to go have a look at the United States Immigration and Naturalization Services website for myself and after a little digging around found the page of sample questions (incidentally, MSNBC also got the number of sample questions made available wrong, there are 96, not 100).
Thankfully, the federal government did ask the question correctly, so we aren't further confusing people who want to become members of our country -- only MSNBC.com is.
The official, much clearer question is:
How many voting members are in the House of Representatives?
How many representatives are there in Congress?
The "correct" answer of 435 for these two question is really only correct on the first one, proving that in this country even one little letter makes a big difference.
(Someone else is free to point out the irony of a quiz trying to expose American ignorance and, itself, being ignorant in the process)
By the way, MSNBC is looking for feedback on their little quiz