Copy Editor’s Corner

Copy Editor’s Corner | A Blog Post on Literally

It’s literally the worst thing to ever happen to the English language. Merriam-Webster added a second definition under its literally entry, recognizing that the original -- a synonym for "actually" -- is no longer the only definition, and certainly not the only accepted one. Now, when...

Copy Editor’s Corner | Less vs. Fewer

When’s the last time you read an ad that was several paragraphs or even a few sentences long? The most effective advertising -- especially in magazines, websites and billboards -- is short and to the point. Ads often forego proper grammar in favor of punchy, clever...

Copy Editor’s Corner | More Than vs. Over

Copy editors are taught that over should be reserved for spatial relationships, as in “The cow jumped over the moon,” and more than be used with numerals. Josh’s salary didn’t increase by over 5 percent, it increased by more than 5 percent. But this guideline needn’t...

Copy Editor’s Corner | Adverbs Badverbs

How many times has someone “corrected” you when you’ve said, “I feel bad,” telling you it should be “I feel badly”? When people are overcorrected they begin to feel a bit paranoid that they’re never right, and that it’s never okay to say “I feel bad”...

Copy Editor’s Corner | Like vs. As

>Every once in a while, copy editors must decide whether to make a sentence grammatically correct or to let it slide for the sake of readability. When like is used where as should be, a copy editor may decide to leave it. When we do stick...

Copy Editor’s Corner | Who vs. Whom

If you want to strike up a spirited debate at your next happy hour, try correcting someone who uses who instead of whom. Some will ask, “Is whom ever right?” Yes, but it is used so rarely nowadays that few people understand when it is actually...

Copy Editor’s Corner | Which vs. That

Which word should you use in that sentence? According to Chicago Manual of Style and The AP Stylebook, that should be used in restrictive clauses and which in nonrestrictive clauses. A restrictive clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence, and a nonrestrictive clause --...

Copy Editor’s Corner | Assure – Insure – Ensure

>Rest assured you’re not the first person to be tripped up by insure, ensure, and assure. And for good reason -- there is a fair amount of leeway in the usage of these words.

But while a dictionary may state that it’s okay to use insure in a context other than insurance, and assure to mean “guarantee,” many style guides have stricter guidelines.

AP style, for instance, assigns one meaning to each word:

“Use ensure to mean guarantee . . . insure for references to insurance . . . assure to mean to make sure or give confidence.”

This approach simplifies the matter and makes the definitions easier to memorize. While you could defend your usage by pointing to Merriam-Webster, style guides often trump dictionaries.

Copy Editor’s Corner | Affect vs. Effect

Thanks for visiting Copy Editor’s Corner! Every month, we’ll get to the bottom of a common copyediting conundrum. In this inaugural post we’ll address the homophones affect and effect.

Let’s start with the two meanings we encounter most often. The following sentences are examples of proper usage:

"A candidate’s debate performance can affect the outcome of an election."

"Amanda’s exercise routine had a salutary effect on her health."

But this next sentence is correct, too. It introduces the word effect as a verb, which means “to bring about.”

Jamie wants a president who will effect change, but she doesn’t know what effect each candidate's proposed policies will have on her life.

(Of course, we don’t recommend using effect twice in the same sentence.)

Finally, affect can be used as a noun, but such usage is rare. Why? Because it is a term used in psychology to describe a person’s mood or emotions. For example, a psychiatrist might describe a patient’s affect as irritable or flat.

Mastering the many meanings of effect and affect will most certainly have a positive effect on your affect.