Guest Post by Alice E.M. Underwood
The time has come to use these words effectively. Or is it affectively? If you’re lucky, a little bit of both. (For the curious, effective would mean successful in this case. And when it comes to grammar, success is the goal.)
These little sound-alikes are tricky because many people pronounce them as homophones, which means, well, that they sound alike. Like bear/bare, here/hear, or write/right. So when it comes to writing the right word, here are the rules to help you bear the struggle.
In a nutshell, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. At least (spoiler alert!), most of the time. In the majority of cases, you’ll encounter the words like this:
Affect means to influence or to produce a change in something.
The tornado affected citizens within forty miles of Topeka.
The medicine will affect your eyesight for at least an hour.
Winning the swimming medal affected Tina’s performance in school, too.
Here’s a mnemonic: A is for action. Verbs are about action. Affect starts with an A, so it’s a verb. Presto.
Effect is a noun, and it means the result of a change. So, if an event affects your life, you will feel the event’s effect.
The effect of the tornado was devastating.
You’ll feel the effect of the medication in the next twenty minutes.
Tina’s big win had an effect on her confidence level overall.
Think of the common phrase cause and effect. Cause ends with an E, and effect begins with an E. So not only does a cause lead to an effect, but also cause’s E leads to effect’s E, giving you a handy noun bridge to step across and remember which spelling to use.
Now that you’ve mastered the basic difference—effect as a noun and affect as a verb—it’s time to shake things up. In some contexts, effect is a verb and affect is a noun. Thanks a lot, English.
Effect as a verb means to bring about. It usually shows up with nouns like “change” or “solutions.”
The protesters wanted to effect change in the corrupt government.
In other words, they wanted to bring about the effect of change—maybe by getting the government to change its policies or even step down. If you use affect here, it would mean “to have an effect on change” or “to impact change.” Protesters who want to “affect change” would be trying to impact existing changes. That’s nice, but not as powerful as creating change, especially when there’s a corrupt government on the line.
Affect as a noun means feeling, emotion, or specific emotional response.
The patient had a flat affect throughout the therapy session.
You probably don’t have to worry about this one too much unless you’re in the field of psychology. But now if you come across a line about a graduation speaker having a huge affect on her audience, you can piece together whether the writer misspelled “effect” or the entire graduating class was moved to tears.
For the extra curious, here are few subtleties:
There’s a whole scholarly field called affect studies, which studies affect—the emotional kind.
Personal effects is an idiom: effects essentially means belongings. Chances are, your belongings have had some effect on your wallet, closet space, or personal life. Hence, personal effects.
Effective means successful in bringing about a desired result.
Affective means producing affect, in the emotion sense.
So, if this article was affective, you were emotionally moved by learning the difference between affect and effect. If it was effective, you’ll use them correctly from now on. It’s pretty much a win-win situation.
from Grammarly Blog https://www.grammarly.com/blog/affect-vs-effect/