Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Those Nagging Little Problems (Part 1 of 16)

In this series, I want to point out problems many writers face (and their incorrect usage).

We’ll start with adopt and adapt. Most writers have no problem with adopt, which means to take something as your own.

Adapt means to change.

If your book is sold to the movies, the producers used to list the title and byline and then add, “adapted by . . .” (These days, they simply say written by and refer to the screenplay.) That means they changed the form from a novel to a script.

Affect and effect. This one used to trouble me until I learned a simple rule. Affect is nearly always a verb; effect is nearly always a noun. Affect means to “have an influence on.” Marvin’s brusque tone negatively affected Grace. (His attitude influenced her emotions.)

Think of effect as a noun that means result. His raised eyebrow had the effect of silencing Grace. (Raised eyebrow brought about a result.) That’s the basic rule.

There are deviations, but my advice is that when you have doubts use this simple mnemonic sentence: Action is affect; the end result is effect.

Because I’m serious about writing, 
I want to know the language well.

1 comment:

  1. I remember affect/effect by pairing the "e" at the end of "the" with the "e" at the beginning of "effect" -- "the effect." (When thinking about it, I pronounce both words with the long "e" sound.) I find that quick noun identifier easier than figuring out if I have an action or an end. Then I just need to be aware of the rare situation where "effect" is a verb.

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