Some days, I get more than a hundred e-mails and I need to read and answer them all. I don’t see those people and our main communication channel is e-mail. When this is the case, the sentence structure and the selection of words are the defining ways of creating the first impression. When somebody uses the words incorrectly, they just make a bad impression and somehow I even don’t trust their ideas on a certain subject. Maybe I’m so strict about that, I have to admit but some incorrectly used words can make you look dumb. 🙂
I found this article on Linkedin. It is written by Jeff Haden. Here I chose the words that interest me most. 🙂
I hope you enjoy! You can always click the line at the bottom to read the full article.
Affect and effect
Verbs first. Affect means to influence: “Impatient investors affected our roll-out date.”Effect means to accomplish something: “The board effected a sweeping policy change.”
How you use effect or affect can be tricky. For example, a board can affect changes by influencing them and can effect changes by directly implementing them. Bottom line, use effect if you’re making it happen, and affect if you’re having an impact on something that someone else is trying to make happen.
As for nouns, effect is almost always correct: “Once he was fired he was given 20 minutes to gather his personal effects.” Affect refers to an emotional state, so unless you’re a psychologist you probably have little reason to use it.
Compliment and complement
Compliment means to say something nice. Complement means to add to, enhance, improve, complete, or bring close to perfection.
I can compliment your staff and their service, but if you have no current openings you have a full complement of staff. Or your new app may complement your website.
For which I may decide to compliment you.
Discreet and discrete
Discreet means careful, cautious, showing good judgment: “We made discreet inquiries to determine whether the founder was interested in selling her company.”
Discrete means individual, separate, or distinct: “We analyzed data from a number of discrete market segments to determine overall pricing levels.” And if you get confused, remember you don’t use “discretion” to work through sensitive issues; you exercise discretion.
Elicit and illicit
Elicit means to draw out or coax. Think of elicit as the mildest form of extract. If one lucky survey respondent will win a trip to the Bahamas, the prize is designed to elicit responses.
Illicit means illegal or unlawful, and while I suppose you could elicit a response at gunpoint … you probably shouldn’t.
Fewer and less
Use fewer when referring to items you can count, like “fewer hours” or “fewer dollars.”
Use “less” when referring to items you can’t (or haven’t tried to) count, like “less time” or “less money.”
Principal and principle
A principle is a fundamental: “Our culture is based on a set of shared principles.”Principal means primary or of first importance: “Our startup’s principal is located in NYC.” (Sometimes you’ll also see the plural, principals, used to refer to executives or relatively co-equals at the top of a particular food chain.)
Principal can also refer to the most important item in a particular set: “Our principal account makes up 60% of our gross revenues.”
Principal can also refer to money, normally a sum that was borrowed, but can be extended to refer to the amount you owe — hence principal and interest.
If you’re referring to laws, rules, guidelines, ethics, etc., use principle. If you’re referring to the CEO or the president (or an individual in charge of a high school), use principal.
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