Sunday, February 28, 2010

Affect / Effect

This is a tough one for many people, including some professional writers.  Generally, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.  When you affect something, you have an effect on it.  The mistake most often made is writing affect instead of effect.  Stick with me here and refer back when needed -- once you set your mind to it, you'll see it's really not too hard.

Affect means to act upon or to move -- the photos affected me so much I cried.   It also can mean to pretend -- on her first day of high school, she affected a calm she did not feel.

An effect is a result, a consequence.  The well-written blog had quite an effect on me.

More examples of the correct use of effect:  Movies are full of sound effects and other special effects.  Your house is full of your personal effects.  When things become effective, they go into effect or they take effect.  I strongly disagreed and wrote her to that effect.  On Halloween, I turned down the lights and put on spooky music, but it was all for effect.  Cause and effect.

Of course, to throw a monkey wrench into the works, effect can (rarely) be a verb, most often when talking about change -- President Obama's administration seems to be finding it tough to effect true change.  In this sense, it means to make happen, to create.

Psychologists may speak of a person's affect, with the accent on the first syllable (AFF-ect).  This refers to a person's emotional response.  I've never used it this way in my lifetime, and I'm guessing you probably won't either.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Could / Couldn't Care Less

How often have you read or heard something like "I could care less how many people..."?  What they are trying to say is they don't care, not even a little bit.  But if you think about it, if you could care less, that means you do care.

What is meant is "I couldn't care less..."  This implies that you don't care at all.

If I say I could care less if anyone learns anything from this blog, that's true, but an understatement.  I care very much!

But I couldn't care less about the winter temperatures here in northern Minnesota -- at least now that we're close enough to spring that they shouldn't dip into the -20's again.  I dress warmly and prepare for cold weather.  I do, however, mind the snow!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

-ly / -ally

Confused about how to properly spell an adverbial use of a word?  Here's another simple trick -- so simple you won't care whether it's an adverb or an adjective!

If there is a form of the word ending in -al, then the proper use is -ally.  If not, use -ly.  That still sounds confusing, so let's look at some examples.

Incident -- incidental is a perfectly good word, so its correct adverb form is incidentally rather than incidently.  Same for coincidentally, correct because coincidental is indeed a word.

Accidental makes accidentally your choice rather than accidently

A couple more examples I'm sure you already know: 

Personally, not personly.

Independently, rather than independentally.

See?  Using the correct terminology isn't hard at all!


Friday, February 12, 2010

Commas, Periods and Quotation Marks

Do these seem, oh, so easy?  That's great!  But hang in there, you may learn something yet!

This will be a short lesson.

Commas and periods ALWAYS go inside closing quotation marks.  No exceptions.

One of my BFF's said, "You need to always wear bright colors."

I try to do the "right thing," but it isn't always easy.

 See?  I told you it would be short!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Every day / Everyday

Today, a second post to get me rolling! I've done a few workshops on grammar and proofing, and in each of them I get to vent a bit about one of my pet peeves to the very small group of people who generally care.

This one is popping up more and more and more, everywhere from store signs to newspapers to blogs. Have you seen these?

Same low price everyday!

I'm so thankful for everyday my kids are with me.

What's wrong? Every day is still generally two words, though I live in fear of the day its (no apostrophe) misuse makes it eligible to be right. Every so often, a word becomes so commonly misused that it actually gets put in the dictionary that way. Remember ain't? And how it ain't a word and you ain't supposed to use it? Well, ain't has been in the dictionary a long time now.

I sit at my computer for hours every day.

You're going to want to read this blog every day, rain or shine.

I'm so thankful for every day my kids are with me -- every day here stands all by itself so needs to be two words.

To make it harder, everyday is correct as an adjective. When it comes before the word it modifies or works with, use the one-word version.

An everyday low price, but a low price every day.

The everyday view out my window, but my view every day.

An everyday event, my everyday clothes.

I'm so thankful for every day my kids are with me -- every day here stands all by itself so needs to be two words.

Tip -- If each day fits in the sentence instead, use two words, every day.

Its / It's

One of the most common mistakes I see on blogs and elsewhere is the use of it's when the word should be its. It's should be used only when meant as a contraction of the phrase it is. To make it as simple as possible -- my goal here, after all -- if you can replace the word with it is, then use it's. Very often, writers think the apostrophe shows possession, like it does nearly everywhere else, but this is one of the few cases where that's not correct.

Some examples:

It's raining cats and dogs -- it is raining cats and dogs, so it's is correct. Well, the usage is correct, but the sentence is so far off here in northern Minnesota that I'm almost ashamed to use this example. It's (it is!) a balmy 21 degrees and snowing.

The dog chased it's tail -- the dog did not chase it is tail, so use its. all its glory -- in all it is glory? Please, use its.


P roof of BLISS? I’ve spent over half a century being mortified by my middle name. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to come to terms with it, after spending my whole life being thankful it’s my middle name and not my first name, like my mother’s good friend Bliss Gerjets. So now, as I enter this blogging world, I’m going to proudly use my given name.

This blog will be a little different than most. I can’t share with you any crafting or decorating tips because I am hopelessly noncreative. Don’t get me wrong, I can copy with the best of them, but I totally missed out on the inspiration gene. That said, you’re right, that means I’m also not a great writer. But if you'll bear with me, the one skill I can share with you is proofing – correcting simple errors before you post your thoughts.

I started proofreading more than 20 years ago and continue the best love affair of my life, the love of words. (Yes, I realize what that says about the rest of my life is truly pathetic.) Nowadays I spend a good share of my time charmed by your blogs, loving these glimpses into the lives of people who actually have a life and sometimes copying an idea to make a corner of my home a teeny bit like yours. But every once in a while I want to grab a red pen (my only tax deduction) and fix some simple mistakes. Thus, this blog was born. My intent is not to nitpick or make anyone feel foolish about common errors. Rather, it’s to help you feel more confident in your writing. I know how easy it is to agonize over the right word, the right punctuation… Life’s too precious to waste that time!

This blog will cover one or two simple words or rules on each post. I won't be posting more than once or twice a week – after all, there are only so many rules and I don’t want to put myself out of work after just a couple months! I’ll title each post so that the archives are easy to search (How pompous is that; imagine, me having an archive!)

And I’m sure I’ll also let a mistake or two of my own slip through. The hardest thing for me to do is to proof my own work. That makes me just as human as everyone. Maybe I’ll give out an award to the first person who comments on a mistake in my post. That way, you’ll know I left it in there on purpose (um-hmm, sure). Seriously, my subjects will always be well researched and accurate, but occasionally a typo may slip through.

I may also veer slightly off course once in a while, maybe throw out one of my more oddball thoughts occasionally, or a recipe, or...whatever. Here's hoping you'll find Proof of Bliss interesting enough to come back and visit often.