Home » Forum » Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

Words that trip you up...

RedCzar

Something that occurred to me while writing my last story. I'm wondering anyone else has certain words that always trip you up? or at least slow you down.

I always stumble over "Lay" vs. "Lie"
I actually have a page bookmarked that I use to remind myself.

Anyone else?

Centaur
Updated:

@RedCzar

yup and Lazeez has a link Learn Your Damn Homophones under author/editor resources

A Post of worst homonym or homophone misuse the real stinkers please

Edit: added link to another post

Replies:   RedCzar
RedCzar

@Centaur

yes! I've looked at that, and I STILL have to check sometimes.

Switch Blayde

@RedCzar

I finally got lie/lay right.
It's I/me and who/whom that messes me up.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

For me it's 'that', 'which', or 'who' in things of the form something that/which does this.

I use 'that' when does this helps identify something.
I use 'which' when does this merely provides extra information something.
I always use 'who' instead of either when something is a person or personified.

These choices can be tricky.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@RedCzar

Anyone else?

"They're" rather than "their". I know which is correct, but like Ernest and his "sue"/"use" and "hte"/"the", I consistently type the wrong word without even being aware of it until someone points it out to me.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It's I/me and who/whom that messes me up.

I occasionally hit the I/me (though not often) and who/whom rarely occurs anymore (simply because I don't typically construct sentences which require "whom"), but after researching it, I've become a real stickler for "that"/"who"/"which", where I or others will use the wrong term in multiple sentences. Now that I'm aware of it, it bugs the shit out of me (which is great whenever I have constipation!)

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

These choices can be tricky.

And it gets even trickier. In sci-fi, do you use "who" or "that" if you're dealing with an AI (Artificial Intelligence). Do you use "him"/"her"/"it" or "they" for a species with an entirely different sexuality than humans. (Typically, for the latter, I handle it on a case by case basis depending on how it 'feels' rather than following a specific rule, which often leaves me using one instance in one set of chapters, and another in a different set. :(

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

With three sexes you can use he, she and it. With four or more you need to improvise. If there is a single sperm donor, he gets "he". An egg donor gets "she". I suspect the rest of them get "it" or "I T" for information technology.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

With three sexes you can use he, she and it. With four or more you need to improvise. If there is a single sperm donor, he gets "he". An egg donor gets "she". I suspect the rest of them get "it" or "I T" for information technology.

Alas, it's difficult conveying that the humans now consider the AI as a 'part of the crew' if they keep referring to it as 'it'. That is the proper pronoun, but only if you don't have any words for additional sexes in your language (which is already rapidly changing).

StarFleet Carl

@RedCzar

Anyone else?


Past and passed ...

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@StarFleet Carl


Past and passed ...


As in: "I passed my past self in that last do-over," or "Excuse me, I just past gas in the passed." 'D

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Excuse me, I just past gas.

Carl's not the only one with a problem.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

Were you walking or running?

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

"Excuse me, I just past gas."


You do know past gas is usually extra foul.

Argon

Principal versus principle; the first you disdain, the second you embrace.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Argon

Principal versus principle; the first you disdain, the second you embrace.

Again — "The Principal's principles just happen to conflate with the principle's Principal."

Huh?

StarFleet Carl

@Crumbly Writer

As in: "I passed my past self in that last do-over,"


As in, "When traveling past an intersection that we passed by several times in the past, we passed gas."

There's a lot of times when doing my first edits on a story I'll simply another word. And I STILL refer to Google on this. Annoys the hell out of me. Damned language. :)

Uther_Pendragon

@RedCzar

I think Microsoft Word questions "it's" every time you use it, just so you can check whether you want "its."

That and which bother me.

And I'll still use homophones when I damned-well KNOW the difference.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

I'm okay with most homophones. As long as I recognise something is one I know the different meanings.

I have problems with the verb 'loathe' or adjective 'loath'. Their meanings are similar and there's no explanation I can remember for why their spellings are different.

Crumbly Writer

@Uther_Pendragon

That and which bother me.

That and which are troublesome, because depending on its position in the sentence, "which" can either be the correct word or not allowed at all.

helmut_meukel

He feinted and she fainted.
I know a auther who always uses faint when describing sword play.

HM.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
robberhands

These and those, me and I, breathe and breath, too damn many to list them all.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@helmut_meukel

I know a auther who always uses faint when describing sword play.

Sharp pointed sticks probably make him dizzy.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@robberhands


These and those, me and I, breathe and breath, too damn many to list them all.


Most of those don't trip me up, but occasionally (only vary rarely) I'll use breathe rather than breath. So it's not a simple muscle memory.

But speaking of muscle memory typos, I often drop letters from pronouns, so I'll use "the" (for them or they), or "he" for she, but I don't seem to drop letters unless they're full words.

But then again ... maybe we should be asking editors which errors we authors make most often, as I doubt we authors really notice our most egregious examples.

Switch Blayde

Here's a spelling tip.

I once made the mistake of writing "sole" when I meant "soul." I won't do that again. But let's say I want the word "soul" but can't remember it. I remember that "sole" isn't the right word, but for the life of me I can't remember how to spell "soul."

Just Google "sole vs" and "sole vs soul" pops up.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Switch Blayde

I fear the problem rarely is that you can't remember the right word. For several chapters, I once wrote 'thrown' instead of 'throne'. I never needed to search for the right term and neither had to think about its spelling, obviously.

Dicrostonyx

A common one in university these days -- I've had both an English and a Psychology professor point it out to the class -- is affect (verb) versus effect (noun).

i recent took a class in professional copyediting and about half of it was just drilling grammar. One of the most important things the prof stressed was that all of the little rules and mnemonics for remembering what to use when are, at best, only accurate most of the time. The best thing to do when you recognise an error is to just look up and memorise the actual grammatical rule.

Replies:   BlacKnight
BlacKnight

@Dicrostonyx

A common one in university these days -- I've had both an English and a Psychology professor point it out to the class -- is affect (verb) versus effect (noun).

It's not even that simple. "Affect" is most commonly used as a verb, and "effect" is most commonly used as a noun, but they can both be either, and they're not synonyms in either case.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@BlacKnight

"Affect" is most commonly used as a verb, and "effect" is most commonly used as a noun, but they can both be either, and they're not synonyms in either case.

I don't think I can explain this properly but ...

Isn't the distinction an active vs passive thing? Isn't 'affect' used when something else is changed, and 'effect' when a change was caused by something else?

ETA: That's not right. I think BlacKnight's explanation in the following post is right.

Replies:   BlacKnight
BlacKnight

@Ross at Play

As verbs, "effect" means to cause or create something; "affect" means to influence or change something. (This is somewhat confused by the most common phrase I see "effect" (v) appear in being "effect change".)

As nouns, "effect" is an outcome or result; "affect" is uncommon - Wiktionary calls it psych jargon, but I've seen it on occasion in general use - and means mood or presentation of emotional state. You'll see it in phrases like "flat affect", which means outwardly emotionless.

So if you give someone a drug that creates a result that changes their mood, you could say that it effects an effect that affects their affect. (You shouldn't. But you could.) You have to be careful with administering drugs, though, because it can interact with other drugs in ways that affect the effect.

The pronunciation of "affect" (v) and "affect" (n) are different, too. The verb is ə·fekt, while the noun is æf·fekt.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dicrostonyx

@BlacKnight, @Ross at Play

Yes, you are both correct that the general confusion between the two words is more complicated than simply one being a noun and one a verb.

The point that I was trying to make was that many students these days are making that specific error: they are using the verb form of affect and the noun form of effect interchangeably, such as:

"The industrial revolution in London had the affect of further marginalizing the working poor."

Ross at Play

@BlacKnight

you could say that [a drug] effects an effect that affects their affect.

Anyone who understands that has wasted too much of their life talking with various shrinks. I understand it. :(

As verbs, "effect" means to cause or create something; "affect" means to influence or change something.

I can see that now. The distinction is new vs altered, not active vs passive as I suggested above.

Keet

I keep it simple if I have to use either word:
Effect: correlates to a result
Affect: correlates to an emotion
It's maybe not 100% correct but it comes close.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Keet

I keep it simple if I have to use either word:

If I may ... the simple rule is to only use 'effect' as a noun and only use 'affect' as a verb.

This is from my Oxford Dictionary.

Which Word?
affect / effect
* affect verb = 'to have an influence on somebody/something' (e.g. Does television affect children's behaviour?) It is not a noun.
* effect noun = 'result, influence' (e.g. Does television have an effect on children's behaviour?)
* effect verb is quite rare and formal and means 'to achieve or produce'.(e.g. They hope to effect a reconciliation.)


The initial point made by BlacKnight is correct. The mistakes of using 'affect' as a noun and/or 'effect' as a verb are quite common in everyday use.

There's a bit of a complication in that psychology uses 'affect' as a technical term, meaning (very roughly) how variable people's moods tend to be.

Replies:   Keet  Crumbly Writer
Keet

@Ross at Play

If I may ... the simple rule is to only use 'effect' as a noun and only use 'affect' as a verb.

You are right of course but as I said, I try to keep it simple and my simple "rule" works 99% of the time. I'm not an author so it is not that I have to have it perfect for a book.

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I must admit, though, despite knowing and appreciating the difference, my editors are constantly catching cases where I flip the spellings, seemingly at random. Once again, when you're typing fast, cranking out a story, often the muscle memory takes over before the intellectual part of your brain has time to analyze the work usage. That's why, in olden times, authors preferred writing with fountain pens, as it gave them time to consider the phrasing and working of their sentences, whereas now we're too quick to just jot ideas down and get onto the next plot point before we forget it. :(

REP

@Keet

my simple "rule" works 99% of the time


That may be true if you limit your definition to emotions. However, 'affect' impacts far more than emotions, and I suspect the impact on emotions is less than about 20% of the total things that can be impacted.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

I suspect the impact on emotions is less than about 20% of the total things that can be impacted.

Including including "Impactors" affecting the building trade in a story about ... well "builders". 'D

Dicrostonyx
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


authors preferred writing with fountain pens


It is worth noting, however, that paper was so expensive that most works were planned out in excruciating detail before the pen ever touched paper. I don't just mean outlining, most pre-19th century authors planned every word in an entire novel by memory.

That's part of the reason older prose is so convoluted. Authors spent years making sure every word and sentence was exactly the right choice because they knew they'd never be able to change anything once it was written down. Unless independently wealthy, you couldn't afford the paper necessary to make changes.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

when you're typing fast, cranking out a story, often the muscle memory takes over before the intellectual part of your brain has time to analyze the work usage.

I can see how modern technology allowing faster typing results in authors making more errors, but it also provides some new tools to detect those more easily.

There are a couple of things authors without the luxury of multiple editors can do to detect most of the errors they tend to miss because their brains only "see" what they intended to write.

Text-reading software is good enough nowadays for authors to hear most simple typos and grammatical errors. They may miss homophones. Grammar analysers will detect most homophones because they are often a part of speech inconsistent with the surrounding text. Grammarly, autocrit, and prowritingaid are all quite good, and free if you accept limits on how much text can be analysed in one request.

While these tools aren't foolproof, they are good enough to allow authors to correct many of their unavoidable errors before their text even gets to an editor.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Grammarly, autocrit, and prowritingaid are all quite good, and free if you accept limits on how much text can be analysed in one request.

Grammarly and I have never gotten along (too many false positives and too few worthwhile corrections to bother with), but with autocrit, which I've used for years, you only get 1,000 words of use 'for free'. Which means, for most chapters, authors would have to spend several days to a week checking a single chapter at a time. While that's doable, it represents a large time commitment without the clear 'ah ha' sense of accomplishment most writers need.

If you like it, I'd urge authors to go for the subscription, but you need to learn which advice to accept and which to ignore. I haven't tried prowritingaid.

However, autocrit, at least, doesn't help me catch my own typos as much as it catches other things, helping me identify repeated uses of the same words and phrases, how often I use words like "said", "that", "then", etc. and other minor details which can weaken your writing.

In the end, it improves my writing, but I doubt my editors even notice any difference when I present it to them.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

but with autocrit ... you only get 1,000 words of use 'for free'.

I was aware their limit for free analysis was a bit of a problem.

I haven't tried prowritingaid.

That is what I have used in the past. You definitely need to learn which reports are worth looking at - otherwise you'll waste a lot of time. BUT ... I just checked and their free word limit was only 500 words. It seems they've reduced that since the last time I used it. As I recall, it used to be 3,000 words. :(

Grammarly and I have never gotten along (too many false positives and too few worthwhile corrections to bother with)

I had it installed on my old computer but haven't used it since I bought a new one. I found it helpful when I was using it.

Back to Top