WNW: Reader Peeves

More Word Nerd Wednesday fun from reader comments and e-mails. On tap today:

Alyson of New England Living mentioned a constantly confused word pair:

One of these words in a verb, and the other is (almost always) a noun. In a handful of cases it's a verb, but usually in formal situations, so probably not when you're writing a blog or a novel.

AFFECT is a verb. In other words, it implies an ACTION.
Use that as your mnemonic device: they both begin with A: AFFECT mean ACTION.

How did reading that book affect you?
His death affected her for the rest of her life.
We anticipate the downturn of the economy to affect overall sales.

On the other hand, EFFECT is a noun.
Think of it as the result of the action version. First something gets AFFECTED, and the result is an EFFECT.

The two words even happen in alphabetical order (another way to remember which is which.)

That book had a powerful effect on me; I cried.
His death had a huge effect: she spiraled into depression.
The effect of the downturn in the economy has meant lower overall sales.

Make sense? (I hope?)

L.T. Elliot of Lexicon Luvr brought up two issues:

First: grey vs. gray
Which is correct? That depends on where you live and/or where your publisher is located. In the UK, Canada, and some other locations, GREY would be correct. In the U.S. use GRAY.

If you're lucky enough to have a book with multiple foreign markets, expect to see differences like this. I got a kick out of reading Dan Wells's I Am Not a Serial Killer in the UK version. The book takes places in the U.S. but all the punctuation, spelling, etc. is with UK standards.

Lexicon Luvr's other topic: than vs then
Oooh, an error I see ALL THE TIME. (Also, one I sometimes make accidentally, even though I know which is which. One reason writers need to PROOF their work. Spell check ain't catching this one.)

THAN compares two things:
Dan is taller than his father.
Sammie is shorter than most of her friends.
I love chocolate more than you do.

THEN, on the other hand, refers to a sequence:
Dan came home from school then did his homework.
Sammie played the violin, clarinet, and then settled on the flute.
I ate chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, then two chocolate donuts.

These are both people, but they have very different definitions. Take the "OR" off the end, and you can figure out what the meaning is for each.

A COUNSELOR is one who (take off the OR) COUNSELS, such as a therapist.

A COUNCILOR, on the other hand, is a person who (wait for it . . . take of the OR . . .) is part of a COUNCIL.

Bob went to see a counselor to help him through a bout of depression.
Harry was elected to be a councilor in the nation's governing council.

And a personal peeve . . .
Many grammatical errors are made when listeners think they're hearing one thing, but in fact are hearing something else. (One common example: Yesterday I laid down. People assume there are TWO Ds, so they use the wrong form. There is only ONE D: Yesterday I lay down.)

My peeve of the day:
Contractions of should have, would have, or could have should be:

should've, would've, could've

But sometimes people hear that wrong and end up writing down what they think they're hearing. And it comes out like this:

should of
could of
would of

If they took five seconds to think through the meaning, they'd realize that OF makes no sense in this context. But that's the word they hear, and they forget it's a contraction, so that's what they write.



Kristina P. said…
I had no idea why it was sometimes spelled gray vs. grey. I usually spell it with an A, funny enough.

Oh, here's one I'm unsure of. Blond vs. blonde. I usually tack on the e, but I don't see that very often.
Blondie said…
Thanks for clarifying the counselor/councilor thing. I don't think I've ever really understood the difference before!
(perhaps it's because I'm blonde. . .or is it blond? I've never gotten that one right either!)
L.T. Elliot said…
Thank you for answering those for me, Annette! I've been wondering about them for a while and now I can have that discussion with my friend. =]
Luisa Perkins said…
Nice and clear as always, my fellow nerd.

Of course, the nerd in ME must mention that "effect" is sometimes a verb--a synonym of "create," as in "we're going to effect change in the School Board regulations."

Also, "affect" can mean "emotion" if the emphasis is on the first syllable, but this is a term used mainly by psychiatrists.

But I should stop with the extra confusion.
Lara said…
Argh. I hang out on a message board and I SWEAR that nobody there knows that should've/would've/could've are contractions. I really cannot stand looking at all the should of/would of/could of mistakes everywhere. Ick. (And yes! TWITCH!) :)
Helena said…
Ack. The lie/lay thing. I watch shows on hulu with the subtitles on, so it's really easy to catch. "Lay down." Constantly. In fact I don't think I've ever noticed anyone saying "lie down" on TV.
Melanie J said…
The "should of" thing is one of the very first mistakes I addressed when I taught language arts because 8th graders LOVE to use it incorrectly. Big pet peeve of mine, too.
Wonder Woman said…
My problem is why does "should've" come up with a red squiggly line?
Jessica G. said…
Thanks for the refresher course on effect/affect. I am always getting them mixed up.
Rebecca said…
The "should of" family makes me twitch as well!

Another one I loathe is "for all intensive purposes" when they mean "for all intents and purposes".
Amanda said…
Ahhhhh. I feel smarter, now. Thank you for enlightening me even further!
Josi said…
You amaze me in the way you can simplify things so that I can apply them. I've looked up a couple of these and had blogs go on for 1000 words explaining what you summed up in a few sentences.
roxy said…
This was an entertaining group of peeves! Thanks for the excellent post and for reminding me that accuracy does indeed count.
Hi Annette! So entertaining and enlightening at the same time! Thank you for sharing. ;)
Krista said…
The whole "lay/lie/laid/lied" thing drives me so insane I find myself finding other words: reclined, lowered, set.
Really, I'd just rather get the rules straight and use the right one. I need your book.
DeNae said…
Not guilty on all counts!! Woot woot! (Although I admit to having to fast and pray over which "affect" / "effect" to use)
wendy said…
I always wondered about the gray/grey. those were all really helpful.
I used to be pretty good in English class in school
now it seems like I have forgotten so much.
good english is imprtant --we shouldn't get lazy about it.

and WOW, you use coconut oil. Way to go.
Krista said…
How about this one?
What the hey? I see both all the time and wonder if there really is a rule. I get tired of pausing and wondering, when I need to be writing! Any enlightenment would be appreciated. :D
Susan said…
The would of, could of, should of's bug me so much! YOU ARE AWESOME!
The whole six weeks of class I kept thinking there was one of these I wanted to ask you and I could never come up with it. Well wouldn't you know it but I thought of it on Saturday night.

I never know how to spell 'little lone'. Or even if I am ever using it correctly. (I dont know the actual phrase hence I dont know how to spell it. I'm just writing it out as I think I'm hearing it said.)

As in,(well now I can't think of a good sentence) something like, "I have so many books to read. The four books in my night stand and three books on my bed little lone the sixteen on the floor."
An Ordinary Mom said…
You are a pro when it comes to explaining things :) !! Thanks for all the WNW lessons. I am always learning something!

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