Don’t get bamboozled by homophones and other verbal tricksters

We’ll alter your consciousness, as we canvass loose language and proceed to cite principal instances, then flesh them out to elicit your assent.

The colorful phrase “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades” originated in baseball in the 1930s. But it applies equally well to corporate writing. “Close” isn’t nearly good enough when it comes to working with words. It can be awfully easy to make mistakes when so many words sound alike.

Here’s a list to help you avoid embarrassing errors:

Accept versus except. Accept means to receive. The president accepted the “best widget-maker” award. Except means to take or leave out. The president said, “Please cancel all my appointments, except for that speech I’m giving tomorrow.”

Affect versus effect. Affect means to influence. Don’t let writing this tedious story affect your job performance. Effect is trickier because it can be used as a noun (meaning: a result) or, more rarely, a verb (meaning: to accomplish). What effect (n.) did the new product have on our sales targets? Can the company effect (v.) change by launching this new product?

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.