Few English word-pairs confound native speakers like “affect” and “effect.” (And few punctuation issues confound me like correctly placing periods and commas when using quotation marks.)
So if you’re still in doubt about these two, today’s simple explanation is for you. In typical Project Grownup fashion, I’m aiming to detail the 20% of the issue that will effect 80% accuracy. I’m all about bang for my buck.
(Ironically, using “effect” as I just did is not part of the 20%. But I’ve explained it over at the facebook page if you’re interested.)
Using “Affect” and “Effect” Properly
The vast majority of the time, you can use the word’s part-of-speech to determine whether “affect” or “effect” is appropriate.
If the word is a verb, it’s most likely correct to use “affect”, meaning “to influence,” as in “His speech affected me” or “How does poverty affect children’s behavior?”
If the word is a noun, it’s most likely correct to use “effect”, meaning “result,” as in “not being able to choose a sentence for “effect” is having a negative effect on my mood.” or “I wonder if these boots will provide the desired effect?”
But How To Remember?
I don’t have an easy way to remember this. Grammar Girl has something that works for her, but it’s a little dubious for me. The good news is, if you can remember one of the two (which is the verb or noun) you can remember the other by default.
I did this by remembering that “effect” is the noun. I think of the phrase “cause and effect” and remember that just like in that phrase, “effect” is usually the noun, which means that “affect” is the verb.
The vast majority of the time you can use the part of speech to determine whether to use “affect” or “effect”:
- “Effect” is the noun
- “Affect” is the verb
But if correct usage really matters – like when you’re writing something in a professional context – definitely consult a more in depth treatment like these definitions and sample sentences at Daily Writing Tips.
…what about you?…
What words or phrases regularly give you the most trouble?