Easy Ways to Remember Difficult Words

You’re kicking butt, editing your latest piece of writing excellence, when everything comes to a screeching halt. Affect? Effect? Hmm… Affect? Effect? Argh!!!

Instead of stopping your writing flow to jump on the Internet (for the fiftieth time) to look up which one it is, here’s an easy way to remember: RAVEN: Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun

Affect is an action verb that means to influence something. Effect is usually a noun that means something that was influenced. (It can also be used as a verb meaning to bring about, but that usage is rare.)

The dampness of the moors affected Cameron’s health.
The damaging effect of Kartooth’s close orbit around the sun meant death to all.


Here are a few more…

Farther vs. Further… Farther refers to physical distance. Further designates metaphorical or figurative distance.

“I can’t walk any farther in these heels!” Arianna groaned.
Without further proof, the DA had to dismiss the case.

Easy way to remember?  Far (physical distance) is in Farther.


Lay vs. Lie… Lay refers to someone or something being acted upon, such as being moved or being put down, by someone or something. Lie is used when someone or something is doing something.

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“Just lay the money on the end table and shove off, okay?”
“The doctor recommended I lie down after the procedure.”

Easy ways to remember?  If the verb place or put can be used in the sentence, use lay. For lie? “Rec-lie-n.”


Fewer vs. Less… Fewer is for items that can be counted—dresses, ideas, Reese’s Pieces. Less is for stuff that can’t be counted—love, time, furniture.

Fewer than fifty people voted against Jose.
Ann would settle for nothing less than unconditional love.

Easy ways to remember?  If you can make a plural of the item—dress vs. dresses—it’s countable. Use fewer. If not, use less.


Than vs. Then… Than is a conjunction used for comparison. Then is an adverb used for time.

Myra was lovelier today than yesterday.
First comes marriage, then comes seduction.

Easy way to remember? Comparisons are made using Than. Than and comparison both have the letter “a” in them. Then often shows time. Then and time both have the letter “e” in them.


Beside vs. Besides… Beside refers to being next to someone or something. Besides means in addition to or apart from. Also, as well or furthermore.

He rested beside the stream before heading out again.
“Who was at the party besides you and Frank,” Ann demanded.
Kent had more work to do. Besides, he wasn’t in the mood to party anyway.

Easy way to remember? If something is near the bed, it’s be[d]side it. (Remove the “d” and you have beside.)


Born vs. Borne… Born and borne are past tense forms of the verb to bear. Use born when referring to someone or something entering the world or as an activity. Use borne in every other instance.

Margaret was born in the back seat of their Chevy.
Born deaf, Alaina possessed astonishing musical talents.
Borne aloft by the winds, the balloon traveled for ten miles.

Easy way to remember? Babies and ideas enter the word small, and born is smaller than borne. Get it?


Which vs. That vs. Who… Which refers to things. That may refer to either things or people. Who refers to people but can be used for animals.

Kevin never watches movies which have subtitles.
The Outrageous Debutante is the book that he recommended.
Bailey, who always wants to play catch, brought Connie the ball.

Easy way to remember? If you can eliminate the word which and not change the sentence, use which (or leave it out). If throwing which out changes the meaning, use that instead. Also, use who when writing about people and that when writing about things.


Assure vs. Ensure vs. Insure… Assure is done to a person, group of people, or animal to remove doubt or anxiety. Ensure is done to guarantee an event or condition. Insure can be done to a person or thing but is reserved for limiting financial liability.

Thomas assured Paulina that he still loved her.
To ensure she’d be ready on time, Georgette did her makeup an hour earlier.
Fabio had no idea if he was insured against vampire damage.

Easy way to remember? Assure is for things that are alive. (Both begin with an a.)  Ensure and guarantee both end in e.


Irregardless vs. Regardless… People believe irregardless means regardless, but it doesn’t. In fact, irregardless isn’t a word. Don’t use it. Use regardless.

Regardless of her feelings toward him, Corrine knew she had to end the relationship.

Easy way to remember? Irregardless isn’t a word. Simple, eh?


Write on!

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