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Impostor Syndrome accept-except

A Word about Words with Impostor Syndrome

The Grammar Floozy’s Guide to Chicago Manual of Style 5.250

Let’s talk about impostors.

Impostor syndrome—rampant in the creative community—distracts us from fulfilling our calling.
Not familiar? Google. We’ll discuss on a future Zoom. Here, though, we’re talking about impostor words.

Four Impostor Pairs and How to Keep Them Straight



ffect /əˈfekt/ = action (verb).
Effect /əˈfekt/ = end result (noun).
If you can replace the word with another verb, you probably need “affect.”
Ex: Their attitudes bothered us. Their attitudes affected us. 
If you can replace the word with another noun, you probably need “effect.”
Ex: Our plan produced the desired outcome. Our plan produced the desired effect

I say “generally” and “probably” because of the “howevers” involved:

 However 1: “Effect” can be a verb. “Effect” replaces “created” or “caused.”
Ex: We effected positive change by lobbying for the cafeteria to add salted caramel ice cream to the menu.
However 2: In some cases—usually in psychological description—”affect” (most often pronounced /ˈafekt/, as after) describes a person’s emotional demeanor. Although often used to describe lack of emotion (e.g., “sedation increased the patient’s flat affect”), “affect” can have positive or negative connotation. If you can replace the word with something describing emotional state, you need “affect.”
Ex: Her happy disposition inspired smiles. Her happy affect inspired smiles.
However 3: “Effect” (noun) can also mean “belonging” (personal effects = personal belongings).

Feel free to add other “howevers” in the 540 Club FB group.

2. Alright/All Right

All right /ˈˌôl ˈrīt/ (adjective, adverb, exclamation): satisfactory
We don’t brush off an apology with, “it’s algood.” Nor do we answer our neighbor’s query about the family’s health, “Oh, thanks, we’re alfine.” It’s all good. We’re all fine.
A few song and movie titles notwithstanding (and I’m not certain the kids are all right), alright isn’t a word. Use all right. Two words.

3. Ensure/Insure

Of all the impostor pairs, this one drives me most crazy. Advertisers and paperwork constantly mess this up. INCORRECT: “To insure everyone has a good time, please…” I mean, if you’re paying Allstate for vacation insurance, I suppose you’re insuring a good time. Otherwise, no.

Maybe why these words are so befuddling: “ensure” means “to guarantee,” and “insure” grew out of “ensure” because when you “insure” something, you purchase a guarantee. Additionally, British English accepts “insure” as a direct replacement for “ensure,” so those of us who read BritLit may be doubly confused. (I realize this isn’t helping.) Here’s how to keep them straight:

Insure /inˈSHo͝or/ (verb): to protect in case of future disaster, often arranging for payment if a calamity occurs. Insure in case.
Ex: We called what’s-his-name—Blake? Drake?—at State Farm and bought a policy to insure our car in case of an accident.
Ensure /inˈSHo͝or, enˈSHo͝or/ (verb): to make certain, make sure.
Ex: To ensure everyone enjoyed dessert, they provided several choices.

It may help to remember the meaning of the prefix ( is a fun site for finding these things), although the first meaning of “en-” is actually “in,” which is zero help.


An alternate meaning of “en-” is “to cause or make,” and if you can remember that meaning, you’re golden. En-sure=make sure.

If you don’t want to remember all that, just remember the insure-insurance connection. If you’re not paying for a policy or preventing future disaster, you want the one with the “e.”

Or you can memorize this: To ensure we would always have a home, I paid to insure our house with an insurance company. Because, you know. Memorizing is so fun.

4. Accept/Except

Accept /əkˈsept/ (verb): to take/receive (e.g., accept a gift), or to trust/believe (e.g., accept an explanation)
Ex: I accepted the dog’s assertion the cat broke my vase, because our cat is a jerk.

Except /ikˈsept/ (multiple uses): not including/something other than (preposition), used before a statement that forms an exception to one made previously (conjunction), the action of excluding (verb)
Again, knowing prefixes and connecting words together will help you here. Ex- means “out/without” (think “exit” and “ex-wife”). “Except” indicates leaving something out. 
Ex: Whenever MacGyver made a bomb, the show included most of the parts except the item needed to actually cause an explosion).

Special thanks to the Google Dictionary for providing all those funny-looking pronunciations my auto-correct wants to change.