Monday, June 11, 2012
1. Simplistic. The word simplistic does not mean very, very simple. It isn’t a synonym for simple at all. In fact, it means over-simplified and it refers to people who ignore complexities or complications in their explanations. If you use simplistic to describe something, you’re judging it negatively. You wouldn’t call a set of instructions “very simplistic” unless they’re bad. If you actually mean something positive, just say simple. Similarly, the word fulsome does not mean very, very full. It’s another negative word (meaning excessive, particularly excessive praise). If you mean full, just say full.
2. Affect/Effect. Affect is used most frequently as a verb (although psychologists occasionally use it as a noun, in which case it means something rather different). Effect is used most frequently as a noun (although there’s also another, less familiar use as a verb). Confused yet? Don’t be. I’m willing to bet in 90 percent of the cases where you’ll use affect and effect, the former will be a verb and the latter will be a noun. So if you say something like I want to effect the results of the election or The affects of the election will be widespread, you’ve just screwed up. And whatever else you want to say about the election will be disregarded by us grammar jerks.
3. Imply/Infer. This one’s a bitch to keep track of, particularly since it’s the kind of thing grammar jerks like me will come down on you for. In fact, the reason I remember it at all is that I was chastised for screwing it up by the most terrifying professor in my college English department. When you imply something you’re suggesting that it’s so without actually saying it is. So if I say I’ll snarl at anyone who screws this distinction up, I’m implying that I’m a grammar jerk. On the other hand, when you infer something, you’re drawing a conclusion without having an explicit statement to go on. So when I say I’ll snarl at anyone who screws this distinction up, you can infer from that statement that I’m a grammar jerk. I’m guessing most people know what imply means because it’s the more common term. The main thing to remember is that infer means something different—it isn’t just a fancy way of saying imply.
Okay, now I feel better. At least for the moment. Sorry for intruding on your day with my picky criticisms.
Oh for Pete’s sake, did she really just write, “It's alright?” Ah geez, here we go again.…
All right (alright?), all you grammar jerks, I give you leave to vent. What are the mistakes that drives you bonkers?
Posted by Meg Benjamin at 4:00 AM