Affect and effect are two words that easily get mixed up
Affect is mainly used as a verb. It means have an impact on, have an effect on. The bad weather affected our plans for the evening. The old man was visibly affected by the girl’s kind words. How will the strike affect your job?
Effect is a noun. It denotesthe result of an action oran impression. The effect of his words was immediate. I liked the sound effects in the film. The law is still in effect.
To sum up, most often affect is a verb and effect is a noun.
That said, you may – on rare occasions – find affect used as a noun. Then it means something that acts on something else, usually in psychological jargon.
And effect can be used as a verb meaning to produce, bring about something new, often in phrases like ”to effect a change”
Have you ever thought about the difference between effective and efficient?
Use effective when you want to say that something gives the result that was intended. Effective tells us whether something has been done, not how it was done. The focus is on the result.
Those pills are really effective – my headache disappeared in less than twenty minutes. The manager’s speech was short but remarkably effective.
Being effective can also mean officially start.
The new regulation is effective from 1 October.
Use efficient to say that somebody or something works well without wasting time, money or energy. Efficient tells us how something was achieved. The focus is on the process, on minimising cost or waste.
We are installing a much more efficient cooling system. She is a very efficient salesperson.
To sum up, effective is goal-oriented and focuses on the ability to produce a wanted result; efficient focuses on how little was wasted to produce the result. Or, to quote Peter Drucker, being effective means doing the right things, being efficient means doing things right.
An efficient company will do things at a lower cost (with higher profit), but it must also meet the customers’ requirements by being effective.
The corresponding nouns are effectiveness and efficiency.
If you have seven minutes to spare, here is a video explaining the difference between effective and efficient. And here you can read about affect and effect.
As a non-native writer of English you are naturally influenced by your own language and culture. When you write in English for an academic or scientific journal, you should bear in mind the Anglo-American style. It is especially important how you structure your text.
The text should have a clear structure with a linear presentation of the main idea and sub-ideas. Scientific journal articles are usually structured according to what is abbreviated as IMRAD, referring to Introduction, Material and Methods, Results and Discussion. To facilitate understanding, each paragraph deals with one issue, and a set of paragraphs form a logical unit.
Sentences, too, must be clearly structured. The subject comes before the verb, and adverbs and adverb phrases begin or end a sentence.
Writers from other cultures may be used to a different way of expanding on an idea; they may deviate from the topic, giving further examples and explanations, often in complicated sentences.
In some languages, adverb phrases can be inserted in the middle of a sentence, often breaking up verb forms or a verb and its object. This is not done in English, where the adverb phrase instead is put at the beginning or the end of the sentence.
Don’t write: The company has in Sweden 600 employees. Write instead: In Sweden the company has 600 employees. Or: The company has 600 employees in Sweden.
Don’t write: The technology is by some manufacturers expected to be dominant on the market within five years. Write instead: Some manufacturers expect the technology to be dominant on the market within five years. This example also shows that it is better to change passive voice to active.
e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means for example. Use e.g. when you want to list one or more examples of something you have mentioned.
Our products are sold in several European countries, e.g. France, Germany, Italy and Greece.
Since you want to give examples, don’t write a complete list.
i.e. stands for id est, which is Latin for that is or in other words. Use i.e. to clarify or explain something.
I am a linguist, i.e. I study languages.
In writing, e.g. and i.e. are lowercase. There should be a full stop after each letter, and the abbreviations should be preceded by a comma. In American English there should also be a comma after the abbreviation; British English usually does not have this comma. Instead of a comma before the abbreviation you can have a dash.
Latin words are often italicized in English texts, but when abbreviated they should be written in normal font.
The two abbreviations can, of course, be written out in full: for example and that is or that is to say. You should avoid beginning a sentence with an abbreviation.
To sum up, e.g. opens up some possibilities, i.e. narrows them down.
You will find more Latin abbreviations in English here.
Continual and continuous (and the adverbs continually and continuously) come from the verb continue but there is a difference between them.
Continuous means that something is going on without interruption, non-stop. The continuous humming from the fridge made me crazy. (A continual humming would be worrying: Why does it stop, start again, stop, then start again …?)
Continual implies that something often happens with intervals, comes and goes. Being a typical teenager she had continual quarrels with her parents about homecoming rules. (Both she and her parents should be happy that the quarrels were not continuous.)
As with many other word pairs you may find that some writers don’t make a distinction between these two words. As a good English writer you know the difference, of course.
Writers sometimes do not distinguish between an accent and an apostrophe.
An accent is a diacritic, a sign added to a letter. When you type a diacritic on the keyboard, the cursor does not move on and so the diacritic is added above (or in other cases below, by the side of or even inside) the letter. Examples of other diacritics are the circumflex ( ^ ), the umlaut ( ¨ ) and the tilde ( ~ ).
(Some Swedish words with diacritics have come into the English language, such as ångström, glögg, smörgåsbord and surströmming.)
English has two two accents, the acute accent ( ´ ) and the grave accent ( ` ).
The acute accent in English is used in loanwords such as apéritif, café, cliché, décor, fiancé and fiancée. In some very rare cases an acute accent is added to a loanword that lacks the accent to show that the last vowel of the word is pronounced: The Italian word latte (milk) is sometimes written latté (or lattè) in English.
The grave accent is rare in English and – like the acute accent – mainly used in foreign words: vis-à-vis, à la carte, ampère, manège, première.
Generally, English writers do not use diacritics even in loanwords – in fact, English keyboards do not have any accent marks. The Swedish words mentioned above are usually written as angstrom, smorgasbord, etc. There are, however, a few words in which the accent marks a difference between an English word and a loanword:
exposé (film or newspaper article revealing shocking facts about somebody) – expose (show, reveal, give experience)
résumé (short text giving the main points) – resume (start doing something again)
rosé (pink wine) – rose (a flower; pink colour)
The apostrophe is a punctuation mark. In English it has several uses:
It marks omission of one or more letters: Don’t be late (Do not)! I’d prefer a smaller one (I would).
It marks the possessive case: Have you seen my brother’s car? There is no apostrophe in his, hers, its, ours, yours and theirs.
In the plural there is no s after the apostrophe: Have you seen my brothers’ cars?
It marks plurals of single letters Mind your p’s and q’s (Mind your manners; be careful about what you say or do).
In plurals of abbreviations and acronyms there is usually no apostrophe: PCs, DVDs, MBAs, URLs, FAQs, UFOs, JPEGs. If there are full stops in an abbreviation, you can include the apostrophe for clarity: Ph.D.’s.
Most style guides leave out the apostrophe in the plural form of decades: They made their first record in the 1960s. You can write an apostrophe before the decade when it is abbreviated: Those born in the ’90s.
The apostrophe represents thousand: 30’ (= 30 000)
The apostrophe is also used as a quotation mark. British English prefers single quotation marks, while American English has double quotation marks ( ” ).
To sum up, you can do very well without the accent in English and only need to worry about the apostrophe. Remember to mind your p’s and q’s; skip the accent and put the apostrophe in the right place!
A dictionary of synonyms suggests alternative words:
More about dictionaries of synonyms can be found here.
A dictionary of collocations shows how a word can be combined with other words and parts of speech:
Read more about dictionaries of collocations here.
Finally, a thesaurus is built on concepts and ideas and will give you lots and lots of closely and more remotely related words and expressions:
A thesaurus gives you ample opportunity to vary your text, but you need to understand nuances in meaning. Under Vb. (Verb) we find neutral phrases such as be in charge and have overall responsibility but also expressions from working life such as take the helm (of a ship), take the chair (lead a meeting) and hold the reins (of a horse). We also find more informal phrases such as wear the trousers, which implies someone who is in control and makes decisions. You would not use that expression in a serious text about the CEO of a company!
You are an expert in your field, but there will be times when you need to look up a word to make sure your English is correct.
The first resource that comes to mind if you are a non-native English writer is a bilingual dictionary. You use a German–English, an Italian–English, a Swedish–English, etc. dictionary. There are general wordbooks, but you may need a specialised dictionary. For Swedish writers the standard work is Ingvar E. Gullberg: Svensk–engelsk fackordbok för näringsliv, förvaltning, undervisning och forskning [A Swedish–English dictionary of technical terms used in business, industry, administration, education and research] (Norstedts, 2000). With over 200 000 headwords it is the largest specialised dictionary in Sweden. It is also available as internet subscription from ne.ord.se at SEK 29/month.
There are, of course, also dictionaries dealing with vocabulary in specific fields of interest such as architecture, economics, medicine, slang, technology, etc.
Monolingual dictionaries, in our case completely in English, give you helpful explanations of words. They are usually intended for non-native users of English and therefore the explanations are simple and easy to understand. Use them to check that a word you have chosen really has the meaning you intended. Here is an example from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English:
Examples of such dictionaries are:
Cambridge International Dictionary of English Collins English Dictionary Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Oxford Dictionary of English
Printed dictionaries are expensive and are not regularly updated. You can find many useful resources on the internet. The dictionaries mentioned above are available online. The following are some other internet sites for your word search:
What if you cannot find a translation of the word you want to use? Ask an expert! Once when I had to translate a word that I could not find in any dictionary, I called the Swedish Coast Guard and asked how they said the word in English. Of course they could help me.
All texts and images posted on the copyeditor.se site are subject to copyrights owned by Lars-Olof Nilsson. Any use of texts or images published on these pages is strictly prohibited unless expressly granted in writing.