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I’m going offline in April, are you in?

(And you should totally read this book…)

Every so often, I read a book that completely changes the way I think about something. I’m talking major, fundamental change, leading me to go in a new direction somehow.

When I picked up a copy of Lost Connections at Gatwick’s North Terminal, with less than a minute to grab-scan-run (I always manage to reach panic mode, regardless of how early I arrive at the airport), I was not expecting it to be one of those books. I wasn’t even expecting it to be good. But without a doubt, this book has been a revelation to me, so much so that I’ve been banging on about it to anyone who will listen. To put an end to my incessant calls for everyone to read it, here’s a mini review – and a challenge.

In Lost Connections, author Johann Hari takes us on his journey to discover the real causes of depression and anxiety. After being on antidepressants for more than a decade, he was shocked to find out the evidence for their efficacy was thin at best. So he travelled the world interviewing an array of characters – from professors to homeless activists to friends to Amish people – to dig a little deeper.

Contrary to what people tend to rattle off when they talk about depression, it’s not as simple as misfiring synapses and a shortage of serotonin. In fact, there’s little evidence to suggest that has much of an effect. Instead of being an individual problem – something going wrong in the brain – Hari argues that it’s a societal one. The way we live today, he believes, is making us depressed and anxious on a large scale.

He puts forward nine things that are contributing to our depression and anxiety. I won’t give them away (because, seriously, everyone should read this book), but suffice to say they are all related to connection. He then outlines seven things that could help us tackle depression and anxiety.

This isn’t a self-help book, it’s a brilliantly written in-depth analysis of what we know about depression and anxiety and an introduction to a new social-based approach to mental health.

Yet it has helped me already. I’m not depressed, but like most people, I experience moments of anxiety – a tight feeling in my chest when I look at the deadlines in front of me, sweaty palms before a day of meetings, a racing pulse as I scroll through the perfect lives on my smartphone screen. This, I now understand, is in large part a result of the faulty societal systems in which I’ve been operating at break-neck speed.

This revelation has perhaps come at the best possible time for me. Last year was epic. It included, among many other things, a new baby, a new city and a new house. But I didn’t take much of a break; I love my work, so I ploughed on. Towards the end of the year, the suggestion was floated to take April 2019 ‘off’. It seemed like forever away, so I played with the idea, threw it around and got a bit excited. Then March arrived and it got real. Could I do this, really? Could I take a month off work? What impact would that have on my company, my life? I started to chicken out. Then I read this book.

Taking a month off isn’t just about having a break from work. It’s about getting my head out of the cloud (literally and metaphorically) and getting my hands dirty. It’s about making life tangible – connecting to nature, to people, to my own values. It’s about planting vegetables in my garden and painting the living room walls. It’s about finally learning to use the sewing machine so I can make dressing-up outfits for my toddler. It’s about drawing with him, even if my mermaids are dreadful. It’s about putting down my phone and looking at the birds outside. It’s about writing from my heart, with a pencil.

April isn’t just a holiday, it’s a chance to reconnect with all the things that are important to me but that get buried in documents and spreadsheets and online meetings. And it’s a way to work out how life will look when those things are a bit more balanced.

Instead of chickening out, I’m going all in. I’m taking April ‘off’ in the extreme sense: no smartphone, no laptop, no internet. I’ll read newspapers and books, and I’ll have an emergency burner phone people can call me on. I’m booking work in from 1 May onwards (that’ll come around sooner than you think).

I’ll be keeping track of my month and will report back afterwards. It’s thrilling and terrifying. Have you ever done anything like this? I’d love your tips for going offline cold turkey!

And here’s a challenge for you: go offline with me for a day (or longer, if you dare) in April. Write me a letter and tell me how it went – just send me an email for my address (lucy@telllucy.com) and I’ll write back to you. See you on the other side!


How reading stuff I wrote as a kid has helped me break bad writing habits

I’ve been writing everything from non-fiction essays to poems since I could string a sentence together. I was a prolific writer as a kid: little me would scribble notes and the beginnings of many (many) novels on scraps of paper, napkins… anything I could get words onto.

A few years ago I convinced my Mum to whittle down her enormous box of my ramblings and I took away a small folder of some of the best* things I’d written. Reading them was very revealing, and it highlighted some of the bad writing habits I’d managed to nurture and grow over the years.

Seeing my bad habits in black and white really helped me squash them.

*Read: funniest

Bad planning.

CaterpillarPlanning is a really important part of the writing process. Knowing where you’re going with an article, story, report, book or poem helps you structure it properly, providing the best possible support for elegant, well thought-out writing. Skip the planning process and you risk your work caving in on itself.

The little version of me didn’t know this. Take my caterpillar “poem” for example. (Come on, it’s not really a poem, is it?) I had one side of A4, minus some pretty generous margins, to work with. I knew this; I’d drawn and decorated the margins myself. What I should have done was draft the “poem” somewhere else first, then work out if it needed to be shortened.

I didn’t do that.

What I did was this: I saw a glorious blank page and started filling it with whatever spilled out of my head. It was going (relatively) well until I saw the end of the box and panicked, shutting the whole thing down abruptly (see the next bad habit).

Reading my caterpillar story made me laugh, but it also put a spotlight on my problem. Of course, I’m not restricted to pencils and paper these days, and typing makes it much easier to play with words on a page. But I really had to force myself to focus on planning.

Now when I start working on something, I begin with a skeleton structure: a word or two to represent what each paragraph or section would contain. Having a skeleton helps me organise notes – I can cut and paste them into the relevant section – and then all I need to do is add flesh to the bones. Planning in this way means I know how many words I have to play with in each part of a piece of writing, and it means I don’t have to cut the work from the bottom.

Abrupt endings.

At the end of the bridgeAs you can see from my amazing caterpillar masterpiece, I had a big problem with endings. This was partly because I would get really excited about every book I was writing, only for my excitement to dissipate by mid-way through chapter two (confession: this still happens, I have countless partly written novels floating around). One of my biggest issues was finishing everything I wrote far too abruptly.

The ending of a piece of writing is really important. Sure, not everyone will make it to the end of an article, but those who do will remember the last few sentences they read better than the rest.

Again, little me didn’t know that. Take “At the end of the bridge” for example. Even the title suggests that something brilliant is awaiting the protagonist at the other side of the bridge. But when she gets there she is “amazed”. I don’t go into detail, despite there being plenty of space in which to do so.

“The girl that traveld [sic]” ends rather cryptically too: suddenly, in the final sentence, the girl can talk to the animals. Nothing like an unexplained revelation to end a story.

The girl that traveldOk, so I’m not that bad any more, but endings weren’t my strong point for years. Reading these stories, I was so disappointed when I reached the end that I realised how my readers must have felt in the past, albeit less obviously. I now include my endings in the planning process, making sure they reflect and build on the introductions, and leave the reader with something to think about.

Over-enthusiasm.

JohnI love exclamation marks! Really, I’m pretty sure you can find one in just about everything I’ve written. I tend to over-use them – and superlatives – in emails to this day, but it’s only because I write the way I speak. And I speak enthusiastically.

In the lovely (untitled) story about John, little me got over-enthusiastic without getting creative, and emboldened the word “very” a couple of times. Over the years, my vocabulary improved, and with it my enthusiasm became more colourful. Things were “really brilliant”, “totally awesome” and “completely amazing”. Add a sprinkling of exclamation marks and you get an out-of-breath reader.

In my head I was just excited and optimistic; on paper, I looked like a lunatic. Reading John’s story reminded me how important it is to check the tone of what I write. These days I write however I feel like it at the time, then make a point of checking for tone when I run back through what I’ve written. If I seem a bit nutty, I cut adjectives and exclamation marks.

Not editing.

Cats 1Actually, my over-enthusiasm was part of a bigger problem in my writing: I wasn’t editing my own work properly. This was probably the toughest habit I had to break.

Check out my treatment on “Cat’s”: a little intro, a song, a poem and a couple of cartoons. Cat’s what? Cat’s disappointed that I used several grocer’s apostrophe’s (that one was on purpose). Even as a kid, I knew how to punctuate and spell properly. Reading this it was obvious to me: I was being lazy.

Editing a piece of writing is almost as important as doing the writing in the first place; it can make the difference between an ok article riddled with mistakes and a compelling article that’s polished and professional.

Of course I want the latter, so now I make sure I factor editing rounds into my writing process. If it’s possible within the deadline, I schedule time to sleep on a piece of writing (figuratively speaking) so I can attack it with fresh eyes the next day. It’s definitely improved my work, and I’m happy to say those painful apostrophes don’t litter my writing any more.

——-

What terrible writing habits did you develop as a kid? How have you tackled them? Share your stories in the comments!

 


My baby was due yesterday. Here’s why I’m still working (and why that’s ok)

Yesterday my due date (and my birthday, incidentally) came and went, as they often do with first babies. It marked the start of what I’m optimistically calling my ‘baby holiday’. Only it’s not what you might expect: I’m still working.

This was actually the fourth adjusted date of the start of my baby holiday. Initially, I had intended to stop working a week before my due date, then the Friday before, then the Monday. When I attempted to stop working the day before the baby was due to arrive, I learnt three things: it’s ok to ignore advice (even if it’s given with love and the best of intentions), ‘relaxing’ doesn’t look the same to everyone and it’s great to love what you do.

An avalanche of advice

Just like every other pregnant woman in history, I’ve been showered with advice for the last nine months. Eat this, don’t drink that, go for a walk (but not too fast), relax, stay active… But nothing compares to the opinions people have shared about working during pregnancy.

My approach – which is basically to work for as long as possible and see how it goes after the baby’s born – has resulted in an array of reactions, from support (it’s so great you can be flexible!) to amusement with a hint of condescension (oh really? You think you’ll be able to do that?) to downright anger and disapproval (that’s really bad for you and your baby).

This mix of reactions isn’t new to me. As a freelancer, there is no clear divide between my ‘life’ and my ‘work’ (which suits me brilliantly, because my work – writing – is what I like to do for fun). This situation isn’t ‘normal’ – I don’t work to live, my work is just a part of my life – and that makes it difficult for many people to understand. If I had a penny for every time someone’s told me to slow down, take a break or have a day off, I’d have enough to kick back with a G&T (post-baby, of course).

EscapeaBut add a bump into the mix and it all gets a bit emotional. People started to worry about my wellbeing and the health of my baby. Surely all the stress of working can’t be good. If you were employed, you’d have to give up work a month before your due date, there must be a sensible reason for that rule. You really should switch off and spend time nesting and thinking about babies instead of writing about pesticides and bees, tuna slaves and urine fuel cells.

Eventually, the voices set up camp in my mind and I compromised: I’d start my baby holiday one week before my due date. That day arrived much more quickly than I’d expected, and I still had several articles to write, a book to edit and a load of invoicing to do. So I postponed. Just one more article. One last document. A couple more emails. Then there were no more excuses.

Attempting to ‘rest’

The day before my due date I got up early and sat down with my sewing machine (which I’d never used before) ready to turn some curtain cut-offs into a cushion for the cats to sleep on. Two hours after starting I admitted defeat and moved to the living room with a cup of tea, a needle and thread and How to Make a Murderer on Netflix. I made a little catnip toy and a tiny felt heart filled with lavender. They were both a bit rubbish.

I felt completely empty. Useless. Pointless. I wanted so much to be enjoying myself, relaxing and doing something creative (why sewing? No idea…) but I was just bored and frustrated. I watched my lovely Facebook friends send me thoughtful, caring messages in response to my ‘look how crap I am at sewing’ post, urging me to stop doing stuff and just kick back with a cuppa. Rationally I understood, and even agreed with, their comments. But I still sat there feeling guilty, conflicted, confused and bored.

When my husband walked through the door that evening, he knew exactly what had happened. ‘Why don’t you do some work tomorrow?’ he suggested.

At that moment the day’s three lessons hit me hard. I became a freelancer almost 18 months ago so I could make a living doing what I love: writing. Writing makes me feel excited and happy. It makes me feel useful and fulfilled. And it relaxes me. Sure, sometimes deadlines can be stressful, especially if they pile up. But I thrive on the pressure (and stress can be good for you anyway).

And I’m not good at sitting still; for the last few years not a single day has gone by when I haven’t done something. No PJ or TV days, and when I do watch a film (or, I admit it, the occasional soap) I’m usually writing or editing something at the same time. When I’m not writing, my version of relaxing is seeing how many things I can tick off my to do list.

Of course I wasn’t happy when I tried to do nothing. It’s not right for me; I was trying to do other people’s version of relaxing and getting ready for a baby. Advice is there to advise, not to instruct, but I’d let myself get swept along with the wave of opinions and hadn’t stopped to think about me. The 9-to-5 office job doesn’t suit me, so it makes perfect sense that the ‘normal’ approach to maternity leave doesn’t either.

My baby holiday

Despite what people have been saying about me needing to slow down since I went freelance – and particularly over the last nine months – I’ve come to realise what my husband already knew: what I need is the opposite. I need to feel useful and busy, to keep ticking things off my lists and adding new things. I need my own version of a baby holiday.

So here’s my five-point baby holiday plan:

  1. Keep writing.
  2. Take on one deadline at a time (this makes sense logistically, since I could go into labour at any moment).
  3. Stop trying to sew. It’s not going to work.
  4. Focus on enjoyment rather than relaxation.
  5. Drink tea and watch Netflix if you feel like it (but you’re not a weirdo if you don’t).

Of course I have no idea what’s in store for me in the next few hours, days, weeks and months. But finding out is half the fun, right?

 


In praise of the pencil

Pencil1As we accelerate towards 2015, with its promise of smaller computers, bigger phones and hover boards, it’s easy to overlook some of life’s simple – but wonderful – technologies. Like the humble pencil.

I love pencils. Seriously, I have a whole drawer of them. I want you to love pencils too. Here are five wonderful things you can do with a pencil that you can’t do with something electronic.

  1. You can hand-write something. Isn’t that lovely? It must be so easy to go for months without hand writing – we don’t even need to sign stuff these days, what with PINs and e-signatures. It’s like going back to the Dark Ages – we’ll all be signing with a shaky cross before long. Use it or lose it!
  2. You can emphasise and whisper. The graphite in your pencil responds to the force of your fingers. Want to make a point? Underline hard! [Ed – I realise the bold and underline functions in Word help with this too, but doing it with a pencil is so much more natural – it’s a direct extension of your feeling, coming out through the force of movement. And it feels way better than hitting ‘ctrl-b’.]
  3. You can enjoy the music of the sweep of your pencil across the page. Every pencil sounds different – this one sings in a high, husky voice. [Ed – I wrote this with a pencil, in case that’s not clear.] It’s such a peaceful sound, and one you don’t get with a pen.
  4. You can erase your mistakes. Isn’t that great? When did we give up and decide it’s acceptable to cross through our messy scrawl in pen? Our teachers would be ashamed! [Ed – actually you can do this with a computer, but it’s not as fun and it doesn’t leave behind a slightly visible legacy of previous ideas. You can’t do it with a pen though. Not unless you have one of those pens with an eraser pen on the other end, which only work for about five seconds.]
  5. You can sharpen a pencil, and that feeling you get when you write with a freshly-sharpened pencil cannot be beaten. Sharpening pencils is also wonderfully relaxing – if I need a break to unwind and de-stress, I sometimes sit back with a cuppa and a sharpener and attack my pencil drawer. (I know, I know.)

Pencil2
So there you have it. Pencils are great. There are loads of other reasons they’re better than computers and pens. Perhaps one of my favourites is that my pencil collection holds some great memories – I buy a pencil at every museum I visit. Sadly I couldn’t find one at a place I visited last week.

What do you think is the best thing about writing with a pencil? Let’s remember their value and protect them from extinction (in the writing world at least)!


Four lessons from my first four weeks of freelancing

After years of doubting and deliberating, I took the plunge and resigned from a good job that I loved to become self-employed. I’d always intended to be a freelancer, but the timing had never been right – too much debt, too much responsibility, not enough time. What it really came down to was that I was scared – scared of not earning money, scared of not getting clients; scared of failure. It’s fair enough, I think – after all, it’s a scary thing. When you’re told your whole life that you should get a steady job with a good salary and a pension, giving all that up (especially when you’re perfectly happy in your job) is… Well, nuts.

Despite all the fear and my logical brain telling me not to do it, I took the leap and started Tell Lucy officially on 1 November 2014. It’s been a short but steep learning curve so far – here are four things I’ve learnt in my first four weeks of self-employment.

I have to find work.

In a ‘normal’ job there’s no shortage of work – in previous roles I often found myself overwhelmed, sometimes even resorting to the dreaded ‘that’s not my job’ response. Not any more: rather than turning work away I’m chasing after it. I’ve been lucky so far, as I’ve had lots of interesting projects fly my way, but I’m sure this won’t always be the case. It may seem like an obvious aspect to freelancing (seriously, Lucy, didn’t you expect this?) and it is. But when you’ve spent your entire career being advised to get better at saying no, it feels more than a little unnatural to actively seek the yeses.

Perfecte presentatiesMy plan: Before I got started, my mentor told me to say yes to everything in the first year. I know this is great advice, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. The trick is that I’m setting up opportunities I know will be enjoyable and rewarding – not just financially, but also intellectually and even spiritually.

Today I volunteered at IMC Weekendschool – an organisation that provides additional learning opportunities for underprivileged kids aged 10-14. I taught them about how to give good presentations, and I did it in Dutch. This was a huge challenge for me; one that has helped me get over a language hurdle and also test out some training material.

Not knowing what’s coming next might be scary, but it’s also exciting: there are so many opportunities out there, for those with an open mind.

2. I can’t delegate.

I was never the best at delegating when I was a manager, but when it comes to tasks and responsibilities, it’s a big change going from an enormous matrix-structured multinational company to a one-man-band setup. I get to spend my time writing and editing, which is amazing. But I’m also responsible for business development, finance, marketing, risk analysis, administration, office management and even catering.

Delegation isn’t just about handing a piece of work over to a member of your team; it’s also about making sure the right people handle the right tasks. It’s amazing how much you take for granted when delegation is automatically available as part of a well-oiled business machine. We’ve all complained about systems (don’t get me started on Oracle) and workflows, but at least they exist in a big company. They might be rusty sometimes, but they work.

As a fledgling freelancer, I don’t have an automatic system for invoice generation. My electricity and heating bills aren’t covered for me. And I don’t have a subsidized café downstairs. I’m not the best at administration or office management or cooking (seriously, ask my husband).

My plan: I have no intention of wrapping up my new business in red tape, but I do want to simplify things as much as possible, and make sure I’m delegating enough to allow me to spend my time on the things I’m good at. I have an accountant, who is excellent at what he does. I have an invoicing system, and some simple spreadsheets to help me manage my projects. It’s not everything, but it’s a start, and it frees up my time to concentrate on writing.

3. I’m in control of the timetable.

In some of my previous jobs, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend 25 hours a week in meetings – usually at the request of other people, for their projects, deadlines and objectives. This is one of the ways a big company functions well – meetings enable collaboration, brainstorming, and cooperation – and it’s also one of the biggest time sinks imaginable. (Microsoft doesn’t help, of course, by making default meeting durations 30 or 60 minutes; whatever you plan to achieve in an hour can almost certainly be achieved in 45 minutes.)

The time I’ve spent in meetings over the last four weeks has decreased dramatically, from 25 hours a week to less than five. Of course, if a client wants to meet to discuss something that’s exactly what we’ll do – it’s almost always useful and sometimes essential. But all the supplementary meetings, the requests for input and ideas, for feedback and approvals, have disappeared, replaced by glorious time. Time to write, time to think, time to be creative.

There is, however, a slight danger associated with free time (for me at least): I’ve started (or re-started) a heap of creative projects, ranging from a series of knitting patterns (which will be so much fun) to an illustrated kids’ book (which I hope will make a splash next Christmas). These projects might well be successful and even lucrative, but they do threaten to steal time away from more sensible and fundamental activities, like approaching potential clients.

My plan: I love interesting projects, and one of the reasons I wanted to go freelance was to free up time to do things like come up with fun knitting patterns. But they shouldn’t come at the expense of important activities that are vital to the success of my future business. So I’m making myself a schedule. It’s not set in stone, but I do need a good reason to deviate from it. When my work is done and my pitches sent, I get to pick up my knitting needles.

4. I’m living my dream.

Cheesy? Yes. True? Absolutely.

A few weeks ago I came across a piece of paper folded up inside an envelope in a folder in a drawer (it sounds like I was trying to hide it, but I think my random bouts of organization got it there by accident). It was a list of things I wanted to do before I turned 30. I must have written it when I was about 24 or 25, and I can vaguely remember wanting to achieve some of the things on the list (like getting my motorbike license… still not done). Some of the things I’d written down were hilarious (‘become a magician’ had my stepsons in stitches), and some were surprisingly reflective of my life today (I’m half way to crossing off ‘run a marathon’). But one really stood out to me: ‘be your own boss’.

I don’t remember specifically wanting to be self-employed at that time, but it was clearly on my mind, and my wish list. I’ve since worked for a society, a university, an NGO and a multinational, and loved all of my jobs. But being my own boss has always been somewhere in the back of my mind – what would it be like? Would I be happy? Would it be what I’d always imagined?

Yes, and more. I forget every morning for a few seconds, and then enjoy the sensation of a smile creeping across my face when I remember what I do for a living and who I work for. I’m certain this isn’t just because I’m freelancing, it’s because I’m doing what I love; living my own dream. The fear that held me back for so long was strong, but it was no match for the joy I feel every day.

Bonus lesson 5. The more attention you give a cat, the more attention it wants.

Seriously. They’ve moved into my office and started speaking English.

Zeus the talking cat


How to not mess up your tattoo: 7 top tips

As a big fan of tattoos (14 and counting), I always wince when I see one with a typo. It’s awful – not only does it make the person look stupid, it’s also a permanent mistake (unless you sue the tattooist for laser removal… but even that doesn’t take away the shame). Out of the hundreds of examples of bad tattoo grammar, a few common mistakes emerge. Here are my seven top tips, inspired by some of the worst offenders.

1. Your vs. you’re Do you mean ‘you are’? Then you need an apostrophe. Otherwise, you don’t. (In this guy’s defence, we can’t see his thumb, so it might not be a total disaster… there’s still room to add an apostrophe…) Your Your2

2. To vs. too If you mean ‘too much of something’ you need two ‘o’s. If you’re addressing someone it’s just one. Too Too2

3. Judgment is a tragedy This one’s interesting (and brilliantly ironic). The English language can be cruel, and although it sounds like there’s a second ‘d’ hiding in words like tragedy, there isn’t. In other cases, it’s easy to miss one that should be there. Best to check if you’re not sure.

Tragedy Judge

4. Apostrophe’s and plural’s Seriously. Making something plural does not require an apostrophe. This has got to be one of the most commonly committed crimes against grammar.

Ones Sin's

5. Then/than In a nutshell, ‘then’ indicates time (I looked at his tattoo and then shuddered), and ‘than’ is for comparison (her tattoo is worse than the others I’ve seen).

Then Then2

6. Life, live, belief, believe I have a feeling this one’s going to get more common when millions of Beliebers reach the legal age for tattooing… so listen up. Belief is important in life; you have to believe if you want to live. If there’s a ‘v’, it’s a verb. And don’t forget there’s an ‘e’ after the ‘i’ in believe and belief.

Belive Life

7. If in doubt, check it (or at least correct it) Come on, it takes one minute to Google a word.

Awsome Corrected

Got any examples of your own? Or want to check before you ink? Leave a comment!


Mixing up affect and effect can affect the effect of your message

Sometimes the English language is just mean. It gives us two words that have connected meanings and only one letter difference.

Like affect and effect.

When you’re talking you can sort of get away with this one – speak fast enough with your hand over your mouth and nobody will notice if you make a mistake. In the case of affect and effect, I think we’ve actually invented a new letter that has a sound somewhere between ‘a’ and ‘e’. But rather than invent a new letter (which, admittedly, would be fun) I’d like to give everyone a nifty way of remembering which word to use when.

First, let’s understand what the difference is. (And before everyone starts jumping up and down, I’m talking about the common, modern usage of the two words, not the less commonly used definitions or archaic meanings. There are many of them, after all.)

Affect is a verb. To affect something means to produce an effect on it.

Effect is a noun. It means a result.

The simplest way to remember which is which is that you can affect an effect – a comes before e in the alphabet. But it’s always better to have a picture in your mind, so how about this:

683px-Common_raven_by_David_Hofmann

Image courtesy of davidhofmann08

Raven. Remember: affect verb, effect noun.

Lovely, isn’t it? The simple ones always are. I’ve remembered this for years without trying.

But just for fun, I Googled ‘affect effect mnemonic’. I must admit, it’s made me feel a bit stupid. All this talk of aardvarks being butchered with sharp sticks… I don’t think that’s going to help me at all. One website even suggests that you can remember what affect means because it sort of rhymes with infect. Really.

This has inspired me to find the best and worst mnemonics ever. Any suggestions? Add them to the comments below, email me at thelucyg@gmail.com, or Tweet me at @LucyGoodchild. We could pull together a great collection, and maybe give out a few awards.

Anyway, back to affect and effect… all sorted? Raven. The important point is that people really notice this in writing. It pops out of the page/screen/phone when I see this mistake, and it’s so very common. It makes me discount whatever the author is trying to say.

If we all just think about ravens, maybe we’ll all make sure we get this right. (And if you find something better than my raven, please share it… they’re not the prettiest of animals.)