Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spinach of the Week: affect/effect and cause/because

I've decided to let the English teacher loose. I'm going give anyone who cares to read it a little weekly grammar lesson on a common mistake. I'm not here to judge. I just suspect people are less likely to correct someone's ongoing mix up "your" and "you're" than they are to tell them when there's spinach in their teeth.

Mike asked me the other day what this week's Spinach would be and suggested I explain the difference between "affect" and "effect."  I guess that one is bugging him.  I had another idea in mind, but since they're all commonly confused and related words, I thought I'd make this a super-sized serving of the dark leafy green.

Click on the words to see their definitions.  Sometimes just realizing the two words both exist is enough to end the confusion. Below each pair you'll see a tip for how to keep them straight.

Effect is a noun, a thing. 
Affect is usually a verb (affect=action). 
Affect can also be a noun (meaning feeling or emotion), but teachers and psychologists are pretty much the only people who need that usage.

Sleep is one of the effects of the swings. 
Swings affect the babies by helping them sleep. 
You can observe a change in their affect after a good nap.

Notice that "cause" is not short for "because."  It has a whole other meaning.  It would be better to use "cuz" in my opinion than to use the completely wrong word for what you intend to say.  If you wish to use "cause" to mean "because," use an apostrophe to show that you have dropped some letters from a word.  But only do this in informal situations like when writing dialogue or updating your FB status.

The cause of one of Michael's first smiles was the little piggie. 
He smiled because the little piggie was silly. 
He thought it was silly 'cause it jingles.

More Spinach

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