Grammar Grappler #26: Is it “free rein” or “free reign”?

A fellow Amory Panther brought this confusing word pair to my attention through Facebook. Let’s see how well you choose the correct word in this sentence: Read more

Grammar Grappler #22: Sincerely yours or Sincerely Yours

This week’s post is a quick read, but we’re using our summer theme of “Grammar Grapplers” to answer readers’ questions. Recently, I’ve received a couple of versions of this question. What do you think? Please choose the correct response. Read more

Grammar Grappler #20: Bring or Take?

Have you ever had the experience of talking with someone and knowing you’re about to use a word and then questioning yourself before it even comes out of your mouth? It happens in a split second, but that’s how I feel about bring and take. Read more

Grammar Grappler #19: Affect or effect?

Without fail, this question pops up in every Grammar-for-Grownups professional development class I facilitate. 

Oh, how I wish there were a simple gimmick to help us remember when to use affect or effect. Alas, that’s why it’s so tricky; there’s no sure-fire memorable saying to help with this sometimes confusing word choice. And, it’s not as simple as saying affect is a verb and effect is a noun. So, how do we know when to use which word? Below is what I share in my classes. It boils down to word substitution—but I’ve found it really works.

Effect is a noun. When effect is being used as a noun, it means “result.”

One effect of Tropical Storm Claudette was closed beaches in Point Clear.

Translation: One result of Tropical Storm Claudette was closed beaches in Point Clear. (And I know this well because we had to cancel our vacation last weekend.)

Another way to look at it is if you can put an or the in front of it, use effect.

Affect is a verb. When affect is being used as a verb, it means “to change or influence.”

Tropical Storm Claudette affected our vacation plans.

Translation: Tropical Storm Claudette changed our vacation plans.

Life would be sweet if it really were that simple, but here’s the catch. Effect also can be used as a verb. And when effect is a verb, it means “to cause.” [Think cause and effect.]

This new HR policy will effect a change in our organizational chart.

Translation: This new HR policy will cause a change in our organizational chart.

This word substitution works for me. I’m curious if you have any other memorable tricks for effect and affect—and effect.


To customize a keynote or professional development session that will have your audience laughing and learning, contact Mandi Stanley.

Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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Grammar Grappler #18: Are you running the gauntlet or running the gamut?

This confusing phrase pair was not even on my RADAR until a reader brought it up. And, when I found out what running the gauntlet really means, I was appalled. I definitely won’t be using that expression again.  Read more

Grammar Grappler #17: The Tattletale of Email

When do you use bcc: appropriately? Read more

Grammar Grappler #16: Is it still a carbon copy?

What does cc: actually stand for when referring to emails? Read more

Grammar Grappler #14: Deciding Between That and Which

Time for a quick pop quiz. Please choose the correct word for each of these sentences. Read more

grammar tip

Grammar Grappler #10: Its and It’s and Its’

You will see this word written one of three ways:




How do we know when to use which one correctly? Even seasoned professional proofreaders can get in a hurry and miss this commonly confused and misused word. It’s not tricky when you use this quick and easy proofreading hack. Read more