More Red Flags
by Cherie Tucker
In Sheridan’s play
The Rivals, there is the delightful Mrs. Malaprop, who hilariously uses
the not-quite-right words to express herself and lent her name to
that mix-up. My favorite is “He is the very pine-apple of
politeness!” (for pinnacle, in case you didn’t get it). The
innocently used wrong word causes the reader to cringe and breaks
the spell you are trying to cast with your writing. Here are a few
to be aware of and some tips for remembering which is which:
verb; it is the action (keep the a’s together). Mt. St.
Helens’ eruption affected our state in many different
Effect is a
noun; it is the result of an action (keep the e’s
A positive effect
of the eruption was all the lovely ash for the glass blowers.
Both of these words describe how you might anticipate something,
but the main difference is the element of fear in the word
anxious. Look at the difference in notes from your child’s
teacher: “We are eager to talk to you about Jimmy’s
progress” versus “We are anxious to talk to you about Jimmy’s
progress.” The first one suggests a happy surprise; the second
Fewer refers to numbers of things; less
refers to volume. You have fewer calories, but less
fat. There are fewer glasses, so you pour less wine.
Good is an adjective that
describes things, actual things, made-up things, imaginary
things, but things (also called nouns). You can have a good
job, a good friend, a good cup of coffee.
is an adverb that tells how something was done. He played
well. It’s going well. He did well on the
test. The team is batting well finally.
You can be good
or well if someone says “How are you?” but if someone
says, “How’s is going?” IT CAN’T GO GOOD. Things go well
or not so well. And if someone says, “How ya doin’?”
and you reply, “I’m doin’ good,” you have just said you are into
charity work, which might be the case. If not, just say you’re
doing great, and we’ll all feel better.
Imply/infer The speaker (with a p) makes an implication
(also with a p); the listener takes that information in
and makes a conclusion about what was said. These words are often
confused by the speaker, who might say, “Are you inferring that I’m
stupid?” To which the listener might respond, “Why, yes.”
Cherie Tucker, owner of GrammarWorks, has taught writing basics to
professionals since 1987, presenting at the PNWA conference.
She currently teaches Practical Grammar for Editors at the
University of Washington’s Editing Certification program and edits