Confusing Word Pair: Affect and Effect

For the most part, affect and effect are easy to distinguish between.  When the word you’re looking for is a verb, affect is almost always the correct choice.  Effect is usually used to describe a noun.

Here are some examples:

  • Dizziness may be a side-effect of the medication.  The medication may affect you by making you dizzy.
  • The symphony had quite an effect on me.  The music affected me greatly.
  • The effects of the storm were widespread.  Many people were affected by the storm.
  • I love movies with special effects.  When done well, special effects really seem to affect the mood of an audience.

These standards apply in nearly every use of affect and effect.  There are two exceptions, but if you remember that affect is almost always a verb, and effect is almost always a noun, you will be ahead of the grammar game.

Now for those two tricky exceptions:

 

  1. Effect can be used as a verb meaning “to cause or achieve,” as in The politician promised to effect budget changes.
  2. As a noun, affect is a psychological term for “emotion,” as in The criminal showed a lack of affect.

 

Hopefully this grammar tip will affect your writing in a positive way–or, to put it in different words, I hope this grammar tip has a positive effect on your writing.

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