Common Confusion: Any one & Anyone

The phrase any one is often confused with the word anyone. It’s easy to understand why! After you know the rule, however, it’s pretty simple to keep them straight.

Anyone is an indefinite pronoun and refers to any person, not any individual. The adjective phrase any one refers to specific people or things that are unidentified.


  • Anyone who would like to attend next month’s conference can sign up by emailing Craig.
  • Please select any one of the items listed below for your “lunch and learn” meal.
  • Anyone can tell you that micromanagement leads to unhappy employees.
  • I feel that any one of our three candidates would excel in this role.

Common Confusion: Affected & Effected

A reader commented on the recent post outlining the differences between the words affect and effect, and asked what distinguishes the words affected and effected. This is a great question and I’m happy to address it!

As previously mentioned, affect is most commonly a verb and effect a noun. The words affected and effectedhowever, are both verbs.

Affected is the past tense of the most common meaning of affect. It means “impacted or changed in some way.”

  • This years cost-cutting initiatives have adversely affected many employees.
  • We are pleasantly surprised to find that the “Lunch and Learn” seminars positively affected our team’s morale.

Effected is the past tense of a less common meaning of the verb effect. It means “brought about, produced or executed.”

  • To ensure our division recruits top Gen Y talent, we effected broad changes.
  • The sales team needed to raise their concerns about the 2013 plan effected by the marketing leaders.

Now it’s your turn! Fill in the blanks with either affected or effected. Then follow @LexWritingFirm on Twitter to see if you’re right! 

  1. Our company sends its best wishes to all those ______ by Hurricane Sandy.
  2. His voracious reading positively ______ his writing skills.
  3. Employees are generally unhappy with the new hiring policy ______ by the recently-appointed HR director. 
  4. Was our stock ______ by the election results?
  5. With the help of my network, I ______ significant changes to the training manual.

Common Confusion: Affect & Effect

The words affect and effect are so similar in meaning, spelling and pronunciation that they often get mixed up and misused. Many readers, however, catch this common mistake, so don’t let it happen to you!

The most important rule of thumb is that, in most cases, affect is a verb, while effect is a noun.

The most common meaning of affect is “to influence.” Effect most commonly means “the result” or “an impression.” Examples:

  • My music affected Taylor’s studying.
  • We’re testing how substituting apple sauce affects this banana bread recipe.
  • Happy with the positive effects, Clara continues to run three times a week.
  • Kim kept complaining and the effect on the group wasn’t pretty.

These two words have other, less common, meanings. Affect can mean “to pretend” or “a mental state,” often in reference to psychology. Effect can also be a verb meaning “to bring about” or a noun meaning “personal property or belongings.”

While these meanings are rare, they are still important to consider and look out for. Examples:

  • He tried to affect an air of confidence, but his hands were visibly shaking. (Here, affect means “to pretend.”)
  • The doctor warned her that a flat affect may be a possible side effect, but she did not find this to be true. (Here, affect means “a mental state.”
  • Among the effects found in the desk was a beautiful gold watch. (Here, effect means “personal belongings.”)
  • The lobbyist hoped he would effect significant change this year. (Here, effect means “to bring about.”) 

Common Confusion: Proscribe & Prescribe

Proscribe and prescribe are easy to confuse. After all, they’re both verbs and only one letter differentiates them.

Proscribe means to ban or forbid, often in the legal sense. Prescribe means to advise, authorize, recommend or direct.


  • The physician prescribed two months of physical therapy for the best recovery.
  • The local government hoped to prevent crime by proscribing loitering.
  • HR regulations prescribe employees to complete three fitness activities each quarter.
  • Some patients may bribe their doctors to prescribe them certain medicine, but this is strictly proscribed.

Great Online Style Guides

Cover of "The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ult...

Cover via Amazon

When writing any project, you may find yourself wondering about a specific word, phrase or punctuation mark. Where do you turn to answer these questions?

Most businesses and corporations don’t ascribe to a specific style code, such as The Associated Press. If this is true for your organization, consider adopting an online style guide; they offer consistent and practical information. Best of all, they’re free and easy to search to find exactly what you need.

Here are my three favorite online guides:

Purdue Owl: Purdue University’s online writing lab offers a wealth of information and guidelines. The general writing section will answer many of your questions on grammar, punctuation and mechanics. The professional and technical writing section is a great source for research and extensive information to improve professional writing.

National Geographic Style Manual: This guide to “preferred National Geographic Society style and usage” is perfect for quickly looking up a specific issue. For example, is it life-size or life-sized? When you visit this online guide, just click on “L” to find the answer in seconds.

The Yahoo! Style Guide: This is one of the best guides for web writing. Based on Chris Barr’s sourcebook, the site offers best practices for online copy as well as a word list of terms relating to communications, technology and branding.

Do you use an online style guide? Please pass along any others you find useful!