Here is the writing on a T-shirt I bought for my husband, a lawyer. It’s labeled “The Layman’s Glossary of Legal Terms”:
ACQUIT: To wimp out
APPELLATE: Hamster food
ARRAIGN: Stormy weather
ATTORNEY: Major sporting event
BAR ASSOCIATION: Drinking buddies
BONA FIDE: Dog treat
CRIMINAL LAWYER: Redundant
COURT OF APPEALS: Justice for bananas
CRIME OF PASSION: Sloppy kisses
DEBTOR: Less alive
DECEIT: A place to sit down
DISCOVERY: Cable TV channel
EXTRADITION: More math homework
GRACE PERIOD: Just before the meal
HUNG JURY: Overreaction to verdict
IN TOTO: Where Dorothy places trust
INNOCENCE: Fragrant when burned
LEGAL BRIEFS: Always boxers
LEGAL SECRETARY: Old enough to party
LIEN: Not overweight
MIRANDA RULE: Wear fruit on head
ORDER IN THE COURT: A call for takeout
PRO BONO: Cher before the divorce
ROE V. WADE: Tough choice at river
SUPREME COURT: Where Diana Ross plays tennis
TRIAL DATE: More fun than dinner and a movie
So many issues to contemplate and solve. Issue after issue. Issues are issuing forth from radio, television and every segment of media all day and all night. We are bombarded with issues.
We are constantly being asked how these issues impact us. So many impacts. Impacts here, impacts there, impacts, impacts everywhere.
What I want to know is what happened to problems affecting people. I’m guessing impact has replaced affect, at least in writing, because so many people are unsure whether to use affect or effect.
Either of those can be used instead of impact:
- How does this problem affect you? (Affect is a verb.)
- What will be the effect of this problem? (Effect is a noun.)
It’s true that affect can be a noun: The patient had a flat affect (no facial expression).
Effect can also be a verb: Every new president hopes to effect changes (meaning bring about).
However, you can see how rarely each of those words is used in those ways. Try memorizing the overwhelmingly more common uses of affect and effect (see sentences 1 and 2 above) and take them out for a spin every now and then. Don’t get stuck in the Issue and Impact Rut.
Glued to the TV
Can you do your level best? Can you throw a fit? How about throwing someone under the bus? Or throwing a birthday party? Can you crack a smile, float a trial balloon, pose a question, bear the brunt, beat a hasty retreat, grab a nap, or cause someone’s words to fall on deaf ears? Are you glued to the conventions? Can you drive a hard bargain and nail down an argument?
If you can do these acts, it might be better if you didn’t. They’re all clichés, and everyone knows clichés should be avoided like the plague.
Are you aware that most “up” phrases clutter (up) your writing? Do you really need to type (up) your report, start (up) the copier, hunt (up) paper clips, fold (up) the newspaper or free (up) your staff?
TIP: When you proofread, look for superfluous words that do no work.
You may be familiar with the wonderful blog Grammarphobia (email@example.com). It is written by the author of the extremely, very, enormously wonderful book Woe Is I, Patricia T. O’Conner. Can you tell how much I love this book?
The subtitle is “The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English.” Not only is the book written in plain English, it is written in clever, entertaining English. O’Connor frequently makes allusions to popular culture, for instance when giving this correct pronunciation:
“Nuclear. Pronounce it NOO-klee-ur (not NOO-kyoo-lur). ‘My business is nuclear energy,’ said Homer.”