Two Little Words Used Incorrectly

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Okay, y’all, I’m not going to beat around the writing bush, I’m just going to say it: I’m tired of seeing the same writing errors in almost everything I read. Errors that I didn’t see even just a few years ago.

I have a couple of theories as to why I keep seeing these errors, but this isn’t really about the why. Instead, let’s just tackle one of these problems today and perhaps in our own little way, we can fix the writing world.

So, on to the pesky proper use of “affect” and “effect.” They sound alike, don’t they? Especially if you happen to be Southern like me. But they are not alike. And nothing makes me cringe more than when I see these two words used incorrectly. (When I hear these words, I automatically hear the correct one, thus giving the speaker the benefit of the doubt. The poor writer who uses these words incorrectly is not so lucky.)

Now, here’s what I find interesting. The spell check function will point out when one of these words is used incorrectly. Yes, it’s right there, underlined in red; all one has to do is correct it. And yet, still it remains, in all its glaring inglorious wrongness in blog posts, essays, even newspapers.

Clearly, people are ignoring spell check and deciding that they know the proper use of these words better than a computer program. Of course, there are plenty of times when a computer cannot be trusted; this is not one of them.

But for those of you who still need convincing (and help), let’s review quickly—and simply—about “effect” and “affect.”

The word “affect” is usually used as a verb, and “effect” is usually used as a noun.

“Affect” means to bring about a change, and “effect” is the result of a change.

“Oh,” exclaimed Cathy, “I was terribly moved by that play! But the effect of sitting for three and a half hours and enjoying adult beverages has affected my ability to stand.”

See? It’s just verbs and nouns, people. And yes, fine, it can be more complicated than that, so if you want an entire lesson then go see what Grammarly has to say about it here. But really, nine and a half out of ten times, it’s just remembering that the verb is “affect’ and the noun is “effect.”

And before you say, “For cryin’ out loud, Cathy, it’s not that big of a deal,” I’m going to stop you. If you are a brain surgeon or an astronaut or a fashion model, then you can possibly get away with using these two words incorrectly. But if you are a professional writer, then editors and other professionals in the writing industry have certain expectations. Namely, that you know the difference between “affect” and “effect.”

So, fix it, little grasshopper, and err no more.

Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer. She's not really fanatical when it comes to words, but if you use "their" for "they're" then chances are good that she'll scream.


Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I totally struggle with this, and I am always double and triple checking myself. Thanks for the tip on the best way to remember the difference, Cathy. Hopefully, it will help! :)

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Yes! I write an Editing for Grammarphobes post on my blog every week and totally agree. If call yourself a writer, grammar is a big part of it. Thanks for spreading the word, Cathy.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, I hope it helps, Madeline! We all have our grammar bugaboos. :-) (For me, it's lay and lie--ugh.)

And you are a woman after my own heart, Karen. :-) Love your grammar post today!

Sioux said...

Cathy--I hate that error/mix-up, too.

One of my pet peeves is when people say, "I could care less" when in reality, they mean, "I couldn't care less."

Now I'm finished with my mini-rant.

Margo Dill said...

HA! :)

I feel that way about farther and further.

We all have our pet peeves, I suppose.

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is a great way to remember which one to use, Cathy. :) Now if someone could write a who/whom explanation that makes sense to me and will finally burn it into my brain...

Barbara V Evers said...

One of my pet peeves, too! Thanks for posting this.

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