September 21st, 2005
Affected and effected / commas with state names / plurals from Greek
by Barbara Wallraff
Susan Stiles, of Jarrettsville, Md., writes: “I’ve seen dozens of Hurricane Katrina stories that refer to ‘the effected area.’ Can this possibly be correct as an alternative to ‘the affected area’? In one story people who lost their vehicles in the storm were referred to as ‘effected drivers.’”
Dear Susan: Oh, no. “The effected area” and “effected drivers” are wrong, wrong, wrong. “Effect” is mainly a noun, as in “The storm had a devastating effect.” Occasionally, however, it’s used as a verb, meaning “to put into effect”: “FEMA effected such plans as it had.”
Peter Valiante, of Lebanon, N.H., writes: “When I write, for example, ‘located in the Barre, Vt., area,’ are both commas around the state name appropriate? Or only the first one?”
Dear Peter: How curious: Suddenly everyone is asking about adjectives that often modify “area.” If you don’t like to use the comma after the state’s name, you can defend your choice -- just barely -- by invoking Garner’s Modern American Usage, by Bryan A. Garner. Garner argues that the practice of using a city-plus-state place name as an adjective “should generally be resisted,” because even with just one comma it “disrupts the flow of the sentence.” He adds that two commas “make matters worse.”
Armand Andrle, of Eddington, Maine, writes: “Re a reply of yours in a recent column, ‘criteria’ and ‘phenomena’ are, to my knowledge, plurals of Greek words, not Latin.”
Dear Armand: Mea culpa! You -- and the other readers who pointed out my mistake -- are right. There’s some excuse for calling “phenomena” and its singular, “phenomenon,” Latin, because this word came to us from the Greek “phainomenon” by way of the Latin “phaenomenon.” But “criteria” and its singular “criterion” are directly derived from the Greek “kriterion.” The Latinized version, “criterium,” dropped out of use in English in the late 1800s.
© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.