Word Wednesday: A Few “Mixed Doubles”

Woe-Is-I-3rdedPart of chapter five in Patricia O’Conner’s book on English grammar and word usage, Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English (Riverhead Books, New York, c.1996), contains a section headed by the phrase “mixed doubles.” It has to do with words that are commonly confused or mixed up, because they are close in spelling and sometimes in meaning.

For our belated Word Wednesday feature today we give you a couple of these oft-“mixed doubles.” You will quickly see why they bear this name – and learn again how to keep them straight. I hope you accept this invitation to be reminded and are not adversely affected. 🙂

accept/except. To accept something is to take it or agree to it. Except can also be a verb – it means to exclude or leave out – but its usual meaning is ‘other than.’ I never accept presents from men,’ said Lorilei, ‘except when we’ve been properly introduced.’

affect/effect. If you’re referring to a thing (a noun), ninety-nine times out of a hundred you mean effect. (‘The termites had a startling effect on the piano.’) If you mean an action (a verb), the odds are just as good if you go for affect. (‘The problem affected Lucia’s recital.’)

Note: Then there’s that one time out of a hundred. Here are the less common meanings for each of these words:

  • Affect, when used as a noun (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable), is a psychological term for ‘feeling.’ ‘Termites display a lack of affect.’
  • Effect, when used as a verb, means achieve or bring about. ‘An exterminator effected the removal of the termites.’
Published in: on February 11, 2015 at 10:10 PM  Leave a Comment  
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