Before I jump to my question, a short note about cloze tests from Wikipedia

A cloze test (also cloze deletion test) is an exercise, test, or assessment consisting of a portion of text with certain words removed (cloze text), where the participant is asked to replace the missing words.

Question: I was looking at my friend's English test paper that was prepared by some Chinese teachers. The text for the cloze section was adopted from an article published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Great Kids: 101 Stories about Sharing. The article can be accessed via Google Books. On that page, the author modifies "bonus" with "positive". The usage doesn't seem right to me.

The Chinese teachers treated that portion this way:

So, when someone does reciprocate, it is an enormous and positive ______.

A. effect B. bonus C. attitude D. contribution

Of course, the suggested answer was in accordance with the original text, which is B. What do you think?


  • I feel skeptical about such collocation primarily because a bonus cannot be negative. Please correct me if I am wrong. – user202531 Jan 15 '16 at 2:55
  • Financially I agree, but the context here is clearly not monetary. – user202531 Jan 15 '16 at 3:17
  • What is cloze? Clothes? I infer that the "original text" said "positive bonus", but you could make that clearer. I suggest you edit your question in response to this comment. – ab2 Jan 15 '16 at 3:21
  • A bonus by definition is a good thing for the recipient, so a positive bonus is a redundancy. But Chicken Soup for the Soul is Pablum for the Brain. – deadrat Jan 15 '16 at 3:29
  • Here's a negative bonus: My teacher gave me a trophy and five dollars in gift certificates to McDonald's for being the stupidest kid she had ever taught. I smiled and told her I'd try not to spend it all in one place. – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 7:45

The context of the linked text is that when reciprocation isn't expected, it is very much appreciated when it does occur, so it seems the author intended positive to convey the idea of emotionally uplifting. It's a bonus because it wasn't a calculated part of the exchange. Unfortunately, positive bonus ends up being redundant as @deadrat observes, so is a poor choice for a 'cloze test'.

Here's an example of a "cloze test" (link). Importantly for the OP, the original text isn't shown. If the construction of the original text is poor, the test question looks weird.

Nevertheless, let's look at the choices in your question:

So, when someone does reciprocate, it is an enormous and positive ______.
A. effect B. bonus C. attitude D. contribution

(A) would be valid if the sentence read "it has an ...";
(B) would be fine without the words "and positive";
(C) "enormous ... attitude" doesn't sit well here - it has the idea of arrogance; and
(D) is plausible, though whether "it is an enormous ... contribution" depends on how much the reciprocating person contributes.

Of these, I'd say option D is least bad.

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  • For option D, what is the object of the contribution? – user202531 Jan 15 '16 at 4:41
  • Also, what does OP stand for? Thanks. – user202531 Jan 15 '16 at 5:00
  • @user202531 If we consider the commas as parenthetical, then "it" is the subject and "contribution" is the subject complement. I'm not sure there is an object in this sentence. On the other hand, if by "object" you mean "reason", that's not stated in this sentence. In answer to your second question, OP means original poster. – Lawrence Jan 15 '16 at 7:05

Reading the text in context:

The best thing is that you feel so great about doing something for someone else, you don't even look for or expect anything in return. So when someone does reciprocate it is an enormous and positive bonus.

Note that it does not simply say "positive bonus", but "enormous and positive bonus", applying both adjectives to "bonus". And "bonus" is not being used in the literal sense of a tangible reward, but rather something intangible.

The usage is poor (note that there is what would technically be considered a "run-on" sentence leading into it), but the meaning is that the sensation experienced when someone reciprocates is substantial and of a positive nature.

Is it a legitimate usage (assuming there are no rabid prescriptivists in the room)? Yes. Should it have been used in a test of this sort? Definitely not.

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  • Well, the test writers actually did a good job with the "run-on" part of the sentence. They replaced the comma with a semicolon. I heard that the core dogma for cloze tests is "mechanics first", meaning that concerns for expression only come into play when the options are on sound grammatical footing, so I guess a test taker should at least temporarily assume the prescriptive perspective. – user202531 Jan 15 '16 at 4:46

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