Cool Rules Business Writing

Which word?

Affect or Effect? Acute or Chronic? Biannual or Biennial? Blatant or Flagrant? Aggravate or Irritate?

Affect or Effect?

Affect is a verb meaning to influence or change something.

Effect is a noun meaning a result or an outcome. Effect is occasionally used as a verb (to effect a change).

  • Justin rose to speak, affecting an air of confidence.
  • How will the changes affect us?
  • What will be the effect of the change?
  • The downturn had an effect on my confidence.

Acute or Chronic?

Use acute to describe conditions that come to a sudden crisis, requiring immediate attention.

  • There is an acute food shortage in towns affected by the floods.
  • She has an acute case of food poisoning.

Use chronic to describe conditions that linger, and are not easily overcome.

  • He has chronic bad health.
  • There is chronic underemployment in the western suburbs.

Biannual or Biennial?

biannual event takes place twice a year.

biennial event occurs once every two years.

Blatant or Flagrant?

Blatant and flagrant are used interchangeably. Use blatant to mean obvious action without shame.

Flagrant means scandalous, obvious or intentional action against societal norms or laws.   

  • Despite her pleas, he went ahead and published, with blatant disregard for her feelings.
  • The fraud they perpetrated was a flagrant abuse of the law.

Aggravate or Irritate?

Aggravate means to make something worse.

Irritate means to annoy, or to cause a bad reaction.

  • Scratching the wound will aggravate the infection.
  • The chemicals in the detergent irritate her skin.

Shaun McNicholas is the founder and principal of Cool Rules [for writers], an Adelaide-based consultancy working with organisations across Australia to improve workplace writing. He is the author of Cool English: A Musical Guide to Better Grammar and Writing (2001), The Apostrophe Song iPhone app and the Cool Rules Really Useful Quick-Guide to Australian Punctuation.

Shaun is running two workshops (The Write Stuff and Minutes Matter) at the Education Development Centre in Hindmarsh, South Australia, on 17 and 20 May 2019. Places are limited. Contact us to book.

April 11, 2019

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