Spelling and word usage: Here’s the buzz on how to fix it

Ever found yourself struggling over which word to use: affect and effect, or accept and except? Or have you just been plain confused about how to spell a word?

It’s understandable why it happens to us, especially today with our constant text messaging, red underlined AutoCorrect, and our pervasive use of English slang. Proper spelling and word usage are not things drilled into our minds (unless you were an English or Writing major like I was).

There’s a way to fix this though! I often find that if I’m confused about which word to use I would look at the context of the sentence and the meaning of the word itself. For example, if I were trying to fill in the blank in the sentence below, I would understand the sentence itself and then consult a dictionary.

The           of the laboratory experiment were startling. 

In this case, effects would the be the correct word because effect is the consequence of an action, according to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English. I also like to think of effects as what happens after; the outcomes and affects as an action word, which it is. Affect is acting on something, influencing it.

On the other hand, if you’re having difficulty remembering how to spell that pesky word, check out the back of some writing handbooks or school agendas. They tend to have a list of commonly misspelled words. Another good reference to check out is The Canadian Press Caps and Spelling (I find it a life-saver) or your country’s equivalent guidebook as it tells you which words to capitalize and how to spell certain words. It’s even trickier if a word contains a hyphen, but Canadian Caps and Spelling or another guidebook usually helps.

Finally, as embarrassing as it may seem, sometimes it’s helpful to ask a friend or co-worker how to spell a word. We all forget sometimes and I’ve even found that words look strange to me at times on a screen when spelled right. It can be a matter of over-thinking spelling and word meaning.

Hope these tips have helped! If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment. Happy writing!

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