Write On!, 0216 WYBJ, Vol. 39 No. 1. 52

Author:John H. Ridge, J.D., Ph.D. Deputy City Attorney
Position:Vol. 39 1 Pg. 52

Write On!

Vol. 39 No. 1 Pg. 52

Wyoming Bar Journal

February, 2016

Confusing Word Pairs, Part Deux A

John H. Ridge, J.D., Ph.D. Deputy City Attorney

After writing Unraveling Some Confusing Word Pairs, published in the October 2015 edition of the Wyoming Lawyer, I received many comments from readers about other confusing word pairs that occasionally trip us up. This prompted a second article on this same topic, which includes the readers' suggestions.

Once again, by providing a short definition and examples of how each word is used, I hope this discussion will help us become better writers.


Generally speaking, affect is used as a verb meaning to influence or to produce a change in something. (The term is also occasionally used as a noun in the fields of psychiatry and psychology, to refer to a personal characteristic or emotion.) Effect is used as a noun meaning a result or consequence.

• Recent decisions by the FCC interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act affect the methods used by collection agencies to contact debtors.

• Collection agencies felt the immediate effect of the FCC's July 2015 opinion interpreting the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The term effect is sometimes used as a verb, meaning to effect a change in something. But grammarians debate this use of effect, since it is simply a replacement for the term affect.


While the Oxford English Dictionary includes some exceptions to the following rule, it is generally the case that among is used when a sentence relates three or more people or things and between is used when the sentence involves only two people or things.

• The FCC's lawyers are among the best in the nation at spotting abuses of the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

• The jury had to choose between two potential sentences: life without parole or death.


Connote implies a meaning other than the literal meaning, while denote refers to the literal meaning.

• Lawyers should restrain from calling their clients "honey," which connotes a close familiarity and intimacy.

• Purple piping in a city's water...

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