21 April 2009

The affected effect

I want to share with you all one of the most helpful things I have EVER found on the internet. How many of you have ever been in the middle of writing a paper, when you suddenly had to stop and whisper to yourself, "Affect. Effect. Eeeeffect...Uhhhhhffect? Crud..."

Although I'm sure very few of you actually say, "crud," like I do. Anyway, a simple solution to this problem does exist, though I can't take any of the credit for it. This explanation comes from Grammar Girl, a person who is, not even joking, now one of my heroes.

Here're her word-y explanations of which is who and why and all:
Affect with an a means "to influence," as in, "The arrows affected Ardvark," or "The rain affected Amy's hairdo." Affect can also mean, roughly, "to act in a way that you don't feel," as in, "She affected an air of superiority."
Effect with an e has a lot of subtle meanings as a noun, but to me the meaning "a result" seems to be at the core of all the definitions. For example, you can say, "The effect was eye-popping," or "The sound effects were amazing," or "The rain had no effect on Amy's hairdo.""

But the best part is how she illustrates it:
Now, whenever I am writing about the effects of hurricanes and how they have affected peoples' living situations, I picture those blue aardvarks in my head. It's quite possible that in some countries, this is an illness.
The only thing left now is for someone to tell me which crazy person decided that two words with two such highly related meanings would have the same phonetic sounds.

Something else I noticed while I was editing today: One of the shorter articles (called a "breakout," as if its set-apart style is jumping the electric fence of a newspaper penitentiary) had parts of it highlighted. Of course, I suddenly had a flashback to my middle school history and science books, many of which had important words and phrases in bold type so that our young minds would know to pay attention to them.

I always knew that journalists are supposed to write for an average 8th-grade-level reader, but isn't that going a little too far? If you're going to do our studying for us, why not just give us bullet points?

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