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Grammar & Usage

Affect and Effect

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Affect and Effect

One set of homonyms that causes many writers trouble is AFFECT and EFFECT. They key to remembering the distinction is that, MOST of the time, ‘affect’ is an action. Get that? ‘A’ for ‘action’ and A for ‘affect’—pretty clever, no? Meanwhile ‘effect’ is a result, or a noun. 

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To Split or Not to Split ... Infinitives

Splitting infinitives will not get you arrested by the grammar police, but neither is it something to be done carelessly. It is a matter for conscious choice. And in making the choice about whether or not your infinitive should be split, the most important considerations are emphasis and naturalness of expression. The old rule (if, indeed, it ever was a rule) no longer applies. But the result is not less need for concern over the issue—it is more. In the absence of a rule, what is needed is skill.

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Hyphens and Dashes

At Edits Made Easy, one of the problems that our academic editors encounter rather frequently in all genres of writing is confusion over the use of hyphens vis-à-vis dashes. I’d venture a guess that most writers aren’t even aware that there is a distinction between these two kinds of punctuation marks, so it’s a mistake we find ourselves correcting quite often. And if that distinction doesn’t cause enough confusion by itself, there’s also a further distinction that has to be made—between two kinds of dashes: the em-dash and the en-dash. (Minus signs, negative signs, figure dashes, 2-em dashes, and 3-em dashes all complicate the matter further, but they are of lesser importance and will be mentioned only briefly in this post). Since the uses of the hyphen, the en-dash, and the em-dash are clearly distinguishable, my hope is to clear up some of the confusion here.

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The Serial Comma

All things being equal, I’m inclined to recommend the serial comma’s use. However, rest assured that—as long as your intended meaning is clear—neither its use nor its nonuse is really wrong.

 

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The Comma Splice

When a run-on sentence is the result of putting together two independent clauses joined only by a comma, this is known as a comma splice. And while there are some circumstances in which a comma splice may be considered acceptable, in most cases it is a grammatical error.

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Bring and Take

In common, spoken American English, the terms are used almost interchangeably. But in formal, written English, it can be more important to be grammatically precise. If that’s the goal, remember that it’s take when you are going and bring when you are coming. Take that simple rule with you, and you should be fine. Or is it bring that simple rule with you? That, too, depends upon your perspective.

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