Joe here. I always get confused about whether to use affect or effect. So what did I do? I asked Liz, our grammar whizkid, of course. If you have grammar questions, email me and I’ll pass them on to Liz.

We previously explored then and than, and now we’re diving into another pair of words that trip up many a blogger. Prepare to venture into the conflict between affect and effect.

Affect Vs. Effect

How to Decide Whether to Use Affect or Effect

The primary rule of thumb when it comes to affect and effect is the following:

Knowing this will generally get you through most confusion between these two words. Effect is occasionally used as a verb, as a synonym for “to cause/bring about.” However, it’s not as commonly used as the noun form and is still not interchangeable with “affect.”

Affecting change and effecting change are not the same. Affecting change means that the change was already in progress when an external force acted on it. Effecting change means that an external force caused the change.

Leroy was deeply affected by the acne medication’s less-than-desirable effect on his face. He gingerly touched his cheek where the rash was the reddest.

The medication affected (verb) Leroy’s face. The medication had a nasty effect (noun) on Leroy’s face. Also, since affected is a verb it often has that -ed ending, whereas you should never see “effected.” If you  do, it’s probably wrong.

POP QUIZ: Do these pictures use EFFECT and AFFECT the right way or the wrong way? Please leave your answers in the comment section.

Affect thewritepractice.com

Effect thewritepractice.com

Affectation Versus Effect

For the most part, it’s pretty simple. It can get complicated when you factor in the words that are derived from affect, like affectation. But even then, this shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge.

Affect basically means to influence, as used in the example above, but it also means to put forth a misleading front. An affectation is the noun form of the second definition. For example:

Jason’s affectation of confidence wasn’t fooling anyone who saw his shaking hands.

Jason is presenting a false front of confidence, when in reality, his nerves are getting the best of him, as displayed by his jittery hands. Let’s continue this story for a bit:

An unforeseen effect of his nerves was a sudden jump in the pitch of his voice.

An effect is a result of something. The effects of Jason’s nervousness are shaky hands and a high-pitched voice. Keeping effect and affect straight in their noun forms can be a challenge, but the more familiar you become with these words, the less likely you are to find yourself staring at your published work and wishing you had a better command of the English lexicon.

Do you have any tricks to help you remember the difference between affect and effect? Don’t forget to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section!

PRACTICE

Tell the story of Jason’s nervousness. Be sure to explain what is affecting him so deeply, and describe the effects of his anxiety.

Write for fifteen minutes. Post your telling of Jason’s misfortunes in the comments so we can share in the fun.

Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she’s not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.