Are you guilty of using the word “irregardless”? That is one that just makes us grammar nerds cringe! Let’s look at why some people use this non-word word. We negate many words by adding the prefix “ir” to the base, such as irreverent, irrelevant or irregular. Why that rule doesn’t work here is that regardless is already negative! No need to add an “ir” to it! Irregardless very simply is not a word. In fact, just as I typed it there, Microsoft Word put a squiggly green line underneath it, and Spell Check suggested “regardless” as the replacement. Go figure! If only we could run Spell Check when we speak!
Here’s another one. How many times do you hear “asterick” used to mean that little * reference mark? The word is asterisk. It is a little difficult to say, but that is the correct word. Again, a squiggly line showed up underneath it as I typed it.
On the flip side, many grammar blunders are words that exist; however, because they are spelled properly but used improperly, they miss the Spell Check review. Let’s look at effect vs. affect. This one can look confusing, but the explanation is really quite simple. Generally speaking, effect is a noun, and affect is a verb. Period. Special effects affect our review of a movie. Now, as we all know so well, the English language—marvel that it is—gives us many exceptions, and surely they exist with affect and effect! The good thing is that these exceptions occur so infrequently that you probably don’t need to worry about them. I would be providing you a disservice, however, if I didn’t at least mention them.
Effect can be a verb meaning to bring about a change, such as to effect a major shift in their thinking. And, to round out the exceptions, affect can also be used as a noun, but again rarely. Here it is psychological speak describing a feeling or emotion—a person’s flat affect. It is also pronounced differently.
We speak more often about effects than effecting change, and affecting rather than a person’s affect. So, if you stick with the first generalization, you will be right just about all of the time: effect is a noun, and affect is a verb.
Stay tuned for the next article when I present yet another exciting curve ball of the English language!