Picture this: The sun has long set, students have dwindled out of the library, and you’re nervously trying to finish a paper due the next morning. Writing at a feverish pace, you’re suddenly halted by the simple question of whether to use affect or effect. In your caffeine-fueled haze, you choose one and hope for the best–there’s no time to waste!
But wouldn’t it be nice if your writing groove wasn’t interrupted by such trivial problems?
Here’s a list that will help you alleviate those issues.
1. There/Their/They’re: We’re starting off with a common mistake that seems easy, folks, but you’d be surprised at how often this one goes unnoticed. “There” indicates a location; “their” is a possessive for “they”; and “they’re” is a contraction of “they are”. Grammar nerds will shun you for these mix-ups.
Ex: Their family wanted to visit the haunted house over there, but they’re too busy.
2. Compliment/Complement: This common mistake is a tough one! A “compliment” is something nice said to someone else, while a “complement” is something that fits well with another.
Ex: The teacher gave us a nice compliment on how we are both perfect complements to each other.
3. Then/Than: “Then” indicates time, while “than” incites some sort of comparison. Learn it, live it, love it.
Ex: Cher then figured out she should visit the mall, which is way more fun than doing homework.
4. Principal/Principle: “Principal” can mean either the person in charge of a school (looking at you, Mr. McDowell), or to describe something as the most important. “Principle,” on the other hand, describes an ideal or belief.
Ex: My principal says we should have school uniforms, but I believe in the principle of freedom of expression.
5. Farther/Further: “Farther” indicates an actual physical distance, while “further” is a metaphorical distance. Even grammar aficionados mess this one up, so don’t feel too bad.
Ex: It’s a much farther walk to the store than I had anticipated. I guess I need to advance further in my estimation skills!
6. It’s/Its: Those darn apostrophes, right? “It’s” is the contraction of “It is”, while “its” indicates a possessive pronoun. Same goes for “you’re” and “your”!
Ex: The sailboat lost its sail, and now it’s floating away 🙁
7. Affect/Effect: This common mistake is the bane of many a student’s existence. “Affect” is a verb, meaning to incite a change, while “effect” is a noun, the result of a cause.
Ex: I would really love to affect change in my sleeping habits, but I’m not sure what kind of effect it would have on my grades if I stayed in bed all day.
8. Lay/Lie: The differences are subtle with this one. “Lay” means to place an object onto something. Notice there is an “a” in both “lay” and “place.” “Lie” means to recline: once again, there is an “I” in both words! Neat little trick, huh?
Ex: I lay my phone down on the table and then went to lie down for a nap. (#CollegeLife)