The Synonym Trick: Affect vs. Effect

When I was in elementary school, phonics played a prominent role in the curriculum. Even at that young age, I recognized and appreciated the structure and rules, and I remember being surprised when others struggled. It was a method that resonated with me (heh), and I usually achieved high marks in spelling.

However, there are times when phonics lets me down, especially in the use of similar-sounding words: “appraise/apprise”, “elicit/illicit”, “passed/past”, and “awhile/a while”. Suffixes can also be a pain, such as “-ible/-able”.

“Affect/effect” is another, and I’m not alone in my confusion. They are among the most misused words in English.

While editing my manuscript today, I discovered a pesky “affect” had survived several rounds of revisions. I’m at the point with my writing where I don’t chastise myself for the miss, but I’d still prefer to learn from the mistake. So I decided I would find a way to minimize it happening again.

I created a mnemonic device. If I can substitute “outcome”, then I should use the noun “effect”. If I can replace with “create”, then the verb “affect”. Simple as that.

Sidebar: If you’re a person who uses “effect” as a verb or “affect” as a noun – both rarer use cases – this won’t work as well. I never do, so I think this will have the desired outcome effect.

The key for me will be remembering I’ve got this new tool in a crowded writer’s toolbox. Like my actual toolbox, the frequently-used ones always stay in sight, at the top. But I’ve been doing similar replacement tricks for years (illicit things bring ills; you appraise the prize), so I think this one will stick.

Will this prove foolproof? We’ll see. English is so fantastically, wonderfully, deliciously complicated that every rule can be broken. That’s when another rule of mine comes into play: when in doubt, rewrite.

I hope this post has the desired effect on your writing!

Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post, and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, November 2022

Word Casualties #12 – Hier Me!

Woman holding "Hire Me" sign in front of her face

I used to do freelance resumé work, which meant I regularly visited professional job websites like LinkedIn and Indeed as a way to generate leads. It’s also a good way to learn how not to point out a person’s typos (it’s nothing personal – those darn things exist everywhere!).

When it comes to the hiring process, we’re all looking to put our best foot forward, make a good first impression, or follow some other idiom that makes sense here. Unfortunately, candidates and hiring managers are sometimes too eager to give their document one last review. Here are a few fun typos I’ve found and my made-up definitions.

CASUALTIES

Obsexsed – a person who really, really wants some lovin’

Scarnio – one of the weakest Bond villains

Opportunites – the best evenings for stargazing

Upfortunately – a positive turn of events

Transfernation – describes an emigrating person

Carer – one who attends your needs

Decuted – made ugly

Handeling – completing a messianic task before getting Bach to other business

Cross-crunctional – twisty sit-ups

Leeder – when Lee is in charge

Cowworker – the person in the cubicle next to you who has a straw bed and milking pail

CORRECT SPELLINGS

Obsessed

Scenario

Opportunities

Unfortunately

Transformation

Career

Deducted

Handling

Cross-functional

Leader

Coworker

A typo can be an immediate disqualifier for candidates and hiring managers alike (though an obsexed person might have an advantage in certain situations). Anyway, hopefully this post encourages you to take one last look at that content before you release it into the wild. Or better yet, persuades you to hire a proofreader, an investment that pays off when they advise you that really, really wanting some lovin’ isn’t the message you want to convey.

Good luck with your job search and your writing!

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this from Michael!

© Michael Wallevand, September 2021

Word Casualties #11 – Typos are no game

One of the primary distractions from my writing is gaming. It’s a storytelling of a different kind, which I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid playing Atari 2600 or Apple ][c.

Ask your parents. Or (sigh) grandparents.

Like literature, it’s a media not immune to typos, but it also provides human interactions. So, between in-game chat, trash talk DMs, and the game itself, there are plenty of opportunities for unusual spellings.

Here’s some I’ve encountered recently, humorous definitions added.

CASUALTIES

erans – the movement a man makes when a Flock of Seagulls chases him so far away

carectors – a steel building set that fosters empathy

campain – the result of pitching your tent on tree roots

spone – the complementary utensil to a fark and knive

dushbagg – the container in a vacuum that catches all the bits

waisted – when a weight gain causes you to stretch out your pants, but they’re still comfy

ingadging – adding a new indicator to your car’s dashboard

opstickales – the goal of a secret tickle mission

outgone – when you’ve really left

CORRECT SPELLINGS

errands

characters

campaign

spawn

douchebag

wasted

engaging

obstacles

outcome

A proofreader or copyeditor might just be the NPC your game needs before release. Unfortunately, they can’t help you with your trash talk.

Good luck with your gaming! And writing!

Mike (Xbox Live: MikesDemons)


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this from Michael!

© Michael Wallevand, August 2021

Word Casualties #9 – Ath time goef by

Today’s list provides a selection of words that didn’t quite capture time in a bottle. And unlike a broken clock that is right twice a day, these are far from correct.

As always, the fun fabricated definitions are followed by the correct spellings.

CASUALTIES

Prenature baby – a baby born before it is naturally possible

Birday – celebrating the occasion of a person’s bir

Tottler – a toddler who doesn’t drink; see also “teetottler”

Threnty-something – the approximate age of a person between their 20s and 30s

Jerryatric – a mental condition that causes an older person to identify everyone else as an old acquaintance named “Jerry”

Senior cilizen – term to describe a retired comedian

Ageles – Enrique Iglesias’ real last name

Immorttel – a phone company for those who live forever

CORRECT SPELLINGS

Premature

Birthday

Toddler

Twenty-something

Geriatric

Senior citizen

Ageless

Immortal

Consider this post an ironic example of how typos can waste your time unless you have a friendly neighborhood proofreader at hand. Good luck in your editing!

–Mike


Enjoy what you just read? Plenty more Word Casualties here. Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, August 2021

Word Casualties #4

Our latest light-hearted look at typos and the definitions they’d have if they were real words. (actual words at the bottom)

Teehee fly – a pesky little laughing insect.

Arknowledge – the wisdom needed to build a deluge-escaping watercraft.

Desolatastness – The delicious feeling of being isolated.

Arthuretum – A piece of land on which many different Arthurs are grown.

Anfractcously – The measurement of the fractal space along the surface indentations of couscous.

Malaware – Software that is not only malicious, but dangerously self-conscious.

Fantsy – Used to describe the intricate scrollwork and special fonts used in Tolkien books.

Misfurtones – The dissonance that occurs while singing poorly about fur coats.

Delicktable – Something that looks good enough to be licked.

Tsetse fly, acknowledge, desolateness, arboretum, ???, malware, fantasy, misfortunes, and delectable.


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, March 2020

Word Casualties #3

Don’t get mad at typos, laugh along with our made-up definitions!

See if you can guess the writers’ intended words!

anarchrist – A deity who fights for the violent overthrow of established governments.

illustratrated – I claim this one as my own. It’s a longer form of illustrating that involves having an illustration within an illustration (click to link to enjoy my embarrassment).

intarrowgate – A small village of Middle-Earth.

willowmaker – To turn one into a person of small stature for a fantasy movie.

batherobe – One could argue this is a garment for a bather. But that doesn’t make it a real word.

flappergasted – The act of being so surprised, one’s arms are waved up and down in rapid fashion.

Jessus – The name Mary and Joseph were going to use if they had a girl.

factuary – One who calculates insurance risks and provides true information.

flustery – When the wind gets agitated and gusts at high speeds.

alabastard – A pale, fatherless child.

Intended words: anarchist, illustrated, interrogate, widowmaker, bathrobe, flabbergasted, Jesus, factory(?), blustery, and alabaster.

Good luck with your wtiring!


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, February 2020

Word Casualties #2

Another dose of misspelled medicine, mostly from text I’ve edited for others. The typo, followed by my made-up definition.

See if you can guess the writers’ intended words!

Trantula – A cross-dressing arachnid.

Midevil – I shouldn’t count this one because tons of people misspell it. It makes me laugh thinking about something mid-way between “a little evil” and “really evil”.

Whore-mungering – I’m not sure what it means to mung a whore. But let’s keep this blog PG-rated.

sirhan wrap – What they used to keep RFK’s assassin fresh.

garganchuwan – The biggest menu item at my favorite Chinese restaurant.

culted relationships – Developing bonds with others, then brainwashing them into drinking poisoned Kool Aid.

sucksessful – Really good at sucking.

volunteary – Crying while helping others.

Intended words: tarantula, medieval, whore-mongering, Saran Wrap, gargantuan, cultured relationships, successful, and voluntary.

Good luck with your wtiring!


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, February 2020

Word Casualties #1

In my years of writing, copywriting, and freelance proofreading and editing, I’ve seen writing from people of varying skill. We all have one thing in common: misspelled words. Some are simple typos. Some are words we’re trying for the first time. And sometimes, our brains just say, “I know you’ve spelled that word a thousand times, but I’m going to turn off for a bit.

In this series of posts, I’ll be sharing the fun ones I’ve found, followed by my humorous definition of what the word might mean if it were real.

See if you can guess the writers’ intended words (in their defense, there are some tough words here). Enjoy!

Uncorrugable – Cardboard that’s impossible to use.

Hippochristy – Not following your own beliefs in the name of the Egyptian god, Taweret.

Hermitically – Thank goodness for those guys living alone, taking the time to ensure our containers are completely sealed.

Orangutang – Nothing like a tasty, orange-drink-flavored primate.

Happenstamps – Postage that’s there when you need it!

Diurbetic – Liquids go right through you AND you have issues with glucose.

Laminantable – Sad, yet able to be covered with a thin protective film.

Diety – A god of fasting.

Favrecate – Able to create a winning football team by the addition of a veteran quarterback.

Diurrea – It goes right through, just not along the normal route.

Constantnation – A country that never changes.

Envioble – People are likely to be jealous of its ability to remain untouched and free of violation.

Intended words: incorrigible, hypocrisy, hermetically, orangutan, happenstance, diabetic, lamentable, deity, fabricate, diarrhea, consternation, and enviable.

Good luck with your wtiring!


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, February 2020

Tighten Up Your Writing #7

I recently wrote about removing the word “now” from my manuscript. It wasn’t the first such word I’d targeted, but since it proved to be a popular post, I decided to dedicate another to the subject.

Removing unnecessary words

In my final edit, I’ve targeted about a dozen common words and phrases for elimination or replacement. While it can feel like extra work, it improves the manuscript and sets me up for less work in the next. Here are two of the more fruitful tasks I took on.

Then

  • Unlike “now”, which is a strange choice for past-tense sentences, “then” is usually implied or simply unnecessary.
  • It’s a word that often feels critical (Tildy ran up the stairs and then slammed her bedroom door), but it’s not (Tildy ran up the stairs and slammed her door).
  • While reviewing 277 instances, I cut about 200 unnecessary words and was rewarded with tighter descriptions.

do or do not

Try to

  • Just gross and passive and weak. Again, it often feels necessary (Tildy stood on her toes and tried to see).
  • Channel your inner Yoda here: Your characters do or they do not. There is no try (Tildy stood on her toes to see). If she can’t see, well, describe that!
  • I cut the instances by half. However, the quantity is less relevant: I have 60+ stronger sentences. This is why you do the work.

I also targeted “passed”, “past”, and “know”, which fit into the category of word variety. I was a bit embarrassed to discover their overuse. Fortunately, replacing them wasn’t much work once I put a little extra thought into it.

C’mon, you’ve got a vocabulary – use it!

I’ve been a writer for 20 years and it’s always been an iterative process for me: Write the thoughts quickly, organize the story, and improve my word selection. Over time, my usage of some of these words has declined, which means less rework. When it comes to editing, I’d rather spend more time on shaping the story and less on swapping words.

We’re here to tell tales, after all. Good luck with your writing!

–Mike

Click for more posts: Tighten Up Your Writing

 


Enjoy what you just read? Leave a comment or like the post and we’ll ensure that you see more like this!

© Michael Wallevand, August 2019

Tighten Up Your Writing #6

A 370-word post in which we realize that things in the past are not happening “now”.

Spaceballs now

Right after Christmas, I finished my mid-draft, which represents the complete book before I check for plot holes, inconsistencies, and other mechanical issues. It’s the first time I read the story straight through and it’s the first time I print out the manuscript to give it a thorough redlining.

I also use blue and green lines, and a yellow highlighter, so perhaps I need a new term.

It’s a time when you sit back and try to enjoy the story (I did!). This additional distance means you’re seeing things you couldn’t when you were nose deep in the writing (oh boy, did I!). I discovered my overuse of the word “now”, which is an odd writing choice when the verbs of the book are all past tense. If you’re not a grammar nerd, it’s the difference between “We walked now” and “We are walking now”.

After Control-F’ing the word (trying saying that in mixed company), I found far too many instances. I was using it as an unnecessary adverb, a way to transition into a new sentence, or as an awkward conjunction. Here’s a list of all the ways I used it. Continue reading