A few Grammar Girl favorites

In our attempt to bring to you as many grammar and other writing tips as possible,  we thought we’d start with a few of our favorite grammar helpers from Grammar Girl. You can subscribe to her blog at: Grammar Girl.

What is the difference between toward and towards?

“Toward” and “towards” are both correct and interchangeable: you can use either one because they mean the same thing. Many sources say the “s” is more common in Britain than in the United States, so you should take into account what the convention is in your country, and use “towards” in Britain and “toward” in the U.S.

What is the difference between affect and effect?

It is actually pretty straightforward. The majority of the time you use affect with an a as a verb and effect with an e as a noun.

Affect

Affect with an a means “to influence,” as in, “The arrows affected Ardvark,” or “The rain affected Amy’s hairdo.” Affect can also mean, roughly, “to act in a way that you don’t feel,” as in, “She affected an air of superiority.”

Effect

Effect with an e has a lot of subtle meanings as a noun, but to me the meaning “a result” seems to be at the core of all the definitions. For example, you can say, “The effect was eye-popping,” or “The sound effects were amazing,” or “The rain had no effect on Amy’s hairdo.”

When is it proper to use a colon?

One of Grammar Girl’s favorite grammar books, titled Punctuate It Right, has a wonderful name for the colon: the author calls it the mark of expectation or addition. That’s because the colon signals that what comes next is directly related to the previous sentence.

The most important thing to remember about colons is that you only use them after statements that are complete sentences. Never use a colon after a sentence fragment.