Sunday, September 11, 2016

Those Pesky Words: Is It This Word or That One?

Lan Lee at MCC
I was writing a sentence and it happened again. Ugh, one of those words. You know what I'm talking about. Those words that mean sort of the same thing but don't. 

Let's take lesser or fewer. These two words may be the most common duo of words incorrectly used, and not just by writers everywhere but grocery stores and big chain retail stores as well. How many of us have been shopping and didn't realize a certain sign was wrong? Which one of these signs is correct?

Many of you, especially this writer, would have chosen the sign containing the word less, because it's what we've seen for so many years growing up, and even still today. But the correct sign would be the sign containing the word fewer. How many times have you heard someone say that? Recalling memories of conversation with people, I have never heard anyone say 10 items or fewer, it has always been 10 items or less. So, here's the rule: use fewer for the things you can count and lesser, for things you can't. 
For instance:      
fewer cars        less exhaust
fewer people      less drama
Moving on, let us look at the words farther or further. I myself have questioned which is the proper word usage in a particular sentence. They are the reason for this blog. These two words are similar in rule. Use farther for physical distance. For figurative and nonphysical distance use further.
Here are some examples:
The farther I drive the  further my pain is left behind.
The further I practice, the farther my kick will go.
Bottom line, The word farther is used for physical distance and all other distances, use further.
Another set of words, that cause me to think twice is who or whom. They are both pronouns but identify with different parts of a sentence. For those of you who can remember the correct usage, kudos. For those of us who cannot, here is the rule and some examples:
Who/whom wrote this blog?
She/he wrote this blog, who is correct.
Who/whom should I take to the dance?
Should I take him/her to the dance, whom is correct.
The rule: the word who refers to the subject of the sentence and the whom refers to the object of the sentence. 
Here is a quick reference to remember:
who = subject    whom = object
who = he/she     whom = him/her
If you can replace the word who with he or she, use who, if you can replace the word whom with him or her use whom.
The most difficult for me, personally are the words affect and effect. The rule for the most part is: affect as a verb, is used to influence and effect as a noun, is used to impact or to change, but as you well know there are exceptions to the rule. Here are some examples:
My anger affected my feelings toward you. The effect was you broke your arm when I pushed you down the stairs. (Remember, this is just an example. I would never push anyone down stairs.;])
The possibility of you having poor grammer can affect your reader. Hopefully this blog will have a positive effect on your grammer.

Whew, I know, right? So many grammer rules, I can't remember them all, and it's okay if you don't. There are plenty of reference material out there, and I hope you find this as a helpful reference. What are the words that usually get you "tripped" up?

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