[By Request] Affect vs. Effect

As promised, in my last post, if you have a grammar/punctuation/spelling question, I will do my best to answer it.  Katie Leas took me at my word and asked me about Affect and Effect.  In most instances, you can follow this simple rule to keep your use of affect and effect on the straight and narrow.

Effect is a noun.¹
Affect is a verb.²

Now, this wouldn’t be the English language without exceptions to the rules.

  1. Effect can also be used as a verb.
  2. Affect can also be used as a noun.

Confused yet? Let’s tackle Affect as a Noun first.

Affect as a noun is used only in the realm of psychology. In that world, it’s used to describe an observed emotion or feeling in a patient.

Though the writer often exhibited feelings of paranoia, his therapist noted the affect was always heightened during November.

You’re not going to come across this sort of language too often, so you can file this away under “Things Worth Knowing I Need to Look Up If Ever I Stumble Across Them.”

Now, here’s where things get tricky.  If Effect can also be used as a verb, then how do you know which to use?  The difference is tricky and very much a matter of nuance.

Effect: to cause change
Affect: to influence

One way to remember this is that Effect as a Noun means a result.  So, if you’re using Effect as a Verb, whatever’s doing the effecting had better be causing some results.  If, on the other hand, the whatever in question isn’t necessarily the direct cause but is doing a bit of nudging, then Affect as a Verb.  Most of the sentences I see should be using Affect as a Verb, but, again, it’s a matter of nuance.  What exactly are you trying to say?  Effect as a Verb has a lot more denotative punch than Affect as a Verb, so use it wisely.

To conclude:

  • Affect as a Verb [to influence]: Reading these blog posts on grammar is really affecting the way I approach my writing.
  • Effect as a Verb [to cause]: By writing these blog posts, I hope to effect a change in the way people approach their writing.
  • Effect as a Noun [a result]: Reading these blog posts on grammar has really had an effect on the clarity of my writing.
  • Affect as a Noun [an observed emotion]: The writer often suffered delusions of megalomania, but writing those blog posts on grammar only seemed to intensify the affect.

 

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4 thoughts on “[By Request] Affect vs. Effect

  1. danielle says:

    These posts rock! Thanks grammar guru! One I constantly struggle with is how to make words that end in “s” plural. That would be a good one to review. 🙂 I still forget even though I’ve asked you over and over.

  2. trmndsblndtte says:

    Thank you! Next time I try to use either word I will consult this post. I break punctuation rules all the time on my blog, but I hate word usage errors (unless they are intentional or punny.)

    Katie

  3. Todd says:

    Great clarity and clever examples. For normal verb usage, I learned a quick, rule-of-thumb substitution trick. If I can substitute the word “cause,” then “effect” is appropriate (cause and effect). If I can substitute the word “alter,” then “affect” is appropriate (A for both alter and affect). Here they are in your examples:
    > Reading these blog posts on grammar is really ALTERING (affecting) the way I approach my writing.
    > By writing these blog posts, I hope to CAUSE (effect) a change in the way people approach their writing.

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