The Ghouls Have Returned!

Ghouls just wanna have funHappy Hallowe’en, everyone! I hope you are having a ghoulishly good time. I will shortly be shuffling through the streets with my son in search of brains, but before I do, I want to share some frighteningly fantastic news.

My grammar story “Abracadabra! Addressing Affect vs. Effect” has been published in the fall issue of The Ghouls’ Review by Grammar Ghoul Press. If you’re in the mood for creative reading treats so delicious they will pop out your eyeballs (ah, those pesky loose eyeballs), come by and haunt this fiendish site!

(There is also a monstrous picture of me, where you can see what I look like at midnight.)

Ghoulishly yours,


(Image credit)

Rogue Words from A to Z: Led to Lie Down Loosely

A to Z Letter LIt seems there are many rogue words beginning with the letter L that lull us into danger.

I’ve had requests from my readers to talk about the differences between lie/lay, lead/led, AND lose/loose. I didn’t want to leave anyone out. So today I’m going to be ambitious and write a bedtime story about all three topics, which hopefully won’t put you to sleep!

Lie vs. Lay

Once upon a time, there was a young boy named Lee who hated bedtime. It felt like every time he went to sleep he had nightmares.

He didn’t want to lay down his bedtime book on his bedside table.

He didn’t want to lie down in his bed.

He thought the rhyme “Now I lay me down to sleep…” was scary.

The difference between lie and lay is that lie is an intransitive verb while lay is a transitive verb.

An intransitive verb (like lie) is a type of verb that does not act on the direct object of a sentence. When you “lie down” you are not doing something to another object, you are simply lying down somewhere.

A transitive verb (like lay) is a type of verb that acts on a direct object. When you lay down a book, you are doing something to the book (putting it down). This is why you use lay and not lie.

Knowing this difference, you would think that “Now I lay me down to sleep” is incorrect, but it’s not. The object of lay in this case is me. You are saying “lay me down” (with me as the object) instead of “lie down,” which does not have an object. Both of these constructions are correct.

As if this weren’t challenging enough, the past tense of the verb lie is lay. (The past tense of lay is laid.) Ouch! You can see why this verb causes so many problems.  Here’s how this verb works in the past tense.

Lee laid down his bedtime book.

Lee lay down in his bed.

Lee tried not to think about bedtime rhymes, and closed his eyes tightly in fierce concentration. His fingers were clenched around the bedsheet.

Lead vs. Led

With his eyes squinched shut, Lee thought about what could help him sleep. How could he avoid the nightmares?

sandman in rise of the guardians

Image from Rise of the Guardians by DreamWorks SKG

In the darkness behind his eyelids, a fuzzy warm glowing dot appeared. It grew and grew, until all at once Lee could see that the warm light was shining from the Sandman.

The Sandman couldn’t speak, but he beckoned Lee forward. Lee knew that the Sandman was going to lead him to a happy dream with no nightmares in it. Lee started to go towards the Sandman. The Sandman turned and led him down a shiny pathway covered in jewel-bright flowers.

The past tense of the verb lead is led. People often use lead for both the present and the past tense, probably because the verb read is spelled as read in both of these tenses. But for lead, you need to use led when speaking in the past tense.

Lose vs. Loose

As Lee began to lose consciousness and slide into sleep, his clenched hands loosened and relaxed. He knew he would never lose his way and wander into a nightmare ever again.

To remember when to spell lose vs. loose, think about how you need to loosen up and lose your fears.

Sandy watched Lee sleeping and smiled. He was just another Guardian doing his job. But he would never get tired of it.


Have you seen Rise of the Guardians? What did you think of it? I must confess I like Sandy the best, although the Easter Bunny comes close!

This post is dedicated to Celine Jeanjean, Nicole Roder, and Margie Brizzolari. Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where I will manhandle the malicious letter M…


© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015

Rogue Words from A to Z: Abracadabra! Addressing Affect vs. Effect

A to Z 2015 Letter AWelcome to A to Z! To kick off my alphabet series on rogue words, I’m addressing the many magical properties of the words affect and effect. These slippery tricksters can give us all sorts of spelling grief.

The most important thing to remember is that affect with an “a” is usually a verb, while effect with an “e” is usually a noun. Let’s look at these most common usages first.

Affect as a Verb

One meaning of affect is “to pretend, feign, or assume a characteristic.”

Zan_Zig_performing_with_rabbit_and_roses,_magician_poster,_1899-2Albert the magician affected an air of confidence as he prepared to cast, but in truth, his insides were trembling.

The second (and most common) meaning of affect is “to influence or have an effect on.”

More than anything, Albert wanted his spell to affect the red-haired woman in the front row. He yearned to hear her declare her undying love for him.

Effect as a Noun

There are three main ways that effect is used as a noun.

One usage is the bizarre term “personal effects” to describe the things you keep in your purse or pockets.

Esmeralda wondered why the magician had needed one of her personal effects to perform a simple stage illusion.

Another meaning comes up a lot in stage work and movies:

As the magician waved his wand and chanted some words, Esmeralda waited for all the sound and light effects to kick in. Nothing happened.

The most common meaning of effect is “result or consequence.” Affecting something means you have an influence on it (like a magician’s influence on another person). The result of this influence is an effect (like a declaration of love). Which brings us to…

Albert looked expectantly at the woman to see the effect of his spell.

Affect as a Noun

Let’s look at the unusual case where affect is a noun. In psychology, affect is used to describe someone’s emotional state.

The red-haired woman’s affect had changed, but it wasn’t lustful happiness — more like terminal boredom.

Effect as a Verb

And finally, effect can be a verb that means “to bring about or produce.”

Albert was dismayed to find that his spell had not effected the change he had wanted. Instead, his stage rabbit jumped up and began to compulsively nibble on his ear.

The moral of the story?

Affect is almost always a verb, which has an effect that is a noun. To remember the rest, just think about Albert and Esmeralda.

And don’t give strange magicians any of your personal effects.

Bonus Word: Address

Since I am addressing affect vs. effect, it makes sense for me to talk about address, which can be difficult to spell. Think of add + dress – the first has two “d”s, and the second has two “s”s. Put them together and you have address.

Esmeralda was not going to add that magician’s name to her address book. Not only was he an awful magician — he was terribly dressed. And that rabbit accessory sure wasn’t helping.


This post is dedicated to Nicole de Courval and Olivia Berrier.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Definitions are from Garner’s Modern American Usage, with some help from the site Common Errors in English Usage

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where I will blindside the bothersome letter B…


© Sue Archer at Doorway Between Worlds, 2015