Tag Archives: English

Effectively Using Affect

Do you know how long it took me to write that title? Too long. Why? Because in spite of my confidence with 95% of English grammar, I am absolutely INCAPABLE of dealing with the difference between Affect and Effect. I’ve looked it up approximately 1000 times and each time I think “yes. right. easy.” and then it comes time to put it into practice and I’m dead in the water. So this post has two purposes…

1) Seeking Help

Anyone got a nice easy, reliable way to tell these two pesky words apart? Grammar Girl has this to say, but somehow that doesn’t seem to stick well in my head in times of trouble!

2) Recording the Differences

Failing the above (in which case I’ll update this post, give you credit and sail off into the proverbial sunset happy), I feel like it might help to at least note the right usage here.

EFFECT (noun)

Usually when you want a noun, it’s Effect. The effects of something, in effect something and even sort of verby phrases like “come into effect” and “take effect”, because the word itself is still a noun.

AFFECT (verb)

Usually when you want a verb, it’s Affect. How will A affect B? A affected B in this way, etc.

So far, it ought to be so good. And Grammar Girl points out that if you just treated the words in this way, you’d be right 90% of the time and therefore can afford to just do that. Which you’d think I’d manage and get over myself. But I cannot bring myself to keep the bathwater of that last 10% in order to save the baby of the 90%, so I stumble through life using whichever feels right and usually getting it wrong. Lesson in life, I suspect. My problem is, there are exceptions and, I’m afraid, I need to know and deal with them too. Here they are:

EFFECT (verb)

Used as in: “The person effected a change”.

Now, reading and studying this I can see that this is subtly of different from affect (verb). Effected is more … active, Affected is more passive. But in the heat of the writing moment, I just find this completely flummoxing. Two verbs? Meaning roughly the same thing? ARGHHH…

AFFECT (noun)

 Affect (noun) is a term in psychology to mean the appearance of emotion eg She took the news with a flat affect. This one’s easier to ignore. Apparently we need it because we can’t know whether there’s an actual effect (noun) because we don’t know what the person is thinking. Or something. Anyway, I’ve looked this up in a couple of places and I think even I don’t feel the need to worry about it. By the way, “He affected a display of emotion” – to mean that someone put on a display that didn’t match their real feelings, which is probably linked to this, is still Affect (verb), just another meaning of it.

 

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It’s Alive!

Believe it or not, I like new developments in English. That might come as a surprise to those who enjoy my Grammar posts, but it’s true. I post about grammar because I believe (and your feedback supports this belief) that many people want to know the “right” way of doing things and I was blessed with an education that taught me a lot about that.

But just for a change, here are some of the wonderful “wrong” bits of English that pepper our lives, and that I love just as much as their anatomically correct siblings.

Goodbye

The blessing, God be with you has been morphed by centuries of use until the original words are as forgotten as the meaning. In a hugely secular society, it’s probably safer that way and goodbye now has a host of meanings and connotations which make it a valuable part of our lives. There are many other examples of this too – which should make us more welcoming to the newest ones, like “imma” for “I’m going to”.

Ey up, mi duck?

Local dialects have been dying out ever since the invention of the horse and cart, but they remain in the details and add to the richness of our culture. Just look at the different terms of endearment used across Britain (mi duck, my lover, darlin’, chuck…).

My friends and I enjoy trying out different dialects for fun – we mean nothing by it, and certainly don’t want to offend anyone. On a boating holiday in Yorkshire, one of them once bumped into a local who asked how the previous lock had been. “Eee, it were right grand,” said my friend, before realising his mistake and quickly ducking into the boat out of sight!

Woof to the Fictioneers

Like any group of people who spend long enough in close quarters, my friends have also developed our own subset of slang. And a load of the boys in our group went to a British public school together, so they came with a ready-made language too. And then there are in-jokes and made-up words like Fictioneers or InMonsters. If you use these words out of context, people might look at you strangely, and like talking in your own language in front of foreign guests, there are plenty of times when it’s inappropriate, but shared language binds us.

LOL

There’s a place for shorthand when you’re typing, and for showing those things that could be seen or heard in ordinary conversation but are missed in the written word. Until someone invents a sarcasm font and a few for other tones of voice too, the smiley will also remain a useful part of our written repertoire.

And TTFN is really no different from Goodbye.

 

What’s your favourite piece of “wrong” English?

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