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Bob Nailor




The Affect Effect

I was asked by a friend to explain the difference between "affect" and "effect" since she constantly confuses the two. I will attempt to clarify.

Affect and Effect can both be used as a noun or a verb, more often a verb for affect and as a noun for effect. They sound very similar and therefore are easily confused and used incorrectly in writing.

Affect
As a verb, it means to act on or produce a change. Also, to move or impress a feeling. It can also be used as a noun, but is very rarely used in that manner.

Examples of usage:
1. The speaker's words so affected the crowd, they were soon enraged. (verb)
2. The death of Kitty, the cat, affected the family to tears. (verb)

Effect
As a noun, it is a produced result or consequence. It can also mean being functional or operational. Or it can be a desired impression. As a verb, it is used as a method to bring about or make happen. Quite often it is used in an idiomatic phrase.

Examples of usage:
1. Exposure to the water had the effect of wrinkling his skin like a prune. (noun)
2. His protest had no effect. (noun)
3. The fancy clothes and cars were for effect only. (noun)
4. The new machines effected the change to digital accounting. (verb)
5. The plan is now in effect. OR The cauterization failed to take effect. (idiomatic)

Of course, to confuse matters just a tad bit more, consider the following sentence: The jailer passed him his personal effects. Suddenly, effects, the plural of effect, becomes personal belongings, goods, or property.

To help keep the words in proper usage, think of it in this manner. An affect can have an effect. An example: The wind's affect can cause a tornado-like effect.

I don't want to make an all-encompassing statement but it would seem if it is a verb, most times it will be affect and if it is a noun then it will be effect that you use. Caveat: But not always.

That's the affect effect or affectation. As defined, affectation is the effort to appear to have the quality not fully possessed or in actual possession thereof. One could call it a conspicuous effort to attract notice. An example: He had an affectation of wealth but didn't own the proverbial pot to piss in.




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~ COMMENTS ~

Onisha Ellis
2014-11-03
I once had someone explain this in much the same manner. I tend to think of it as "A" for action.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-11-03
I like the idea of association - A is for action. I guess E would be for event since the outcome of the effect would be just that. Thanks, Onisha.
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Elyse Salpeter
2014-11-03
Sigh, this is one of my banes - these two words mess me up all the time - I say I get it right 75% of the time. Great examples - I like how you include them so I can say them out loud and compare them to my own sentences. Great post.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-11-03
Make sure you take note of what Onisha said to help you in the future. I like the idea of word association to help clarify things. A of affect is for Action. I always got Port and Starboard messed up until I realized that Port was Left and both had 4 letters. Haven't screwed that up since.
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Scott Bury
2014-11-03
Thanks for this concise explanation, Bob. These words confuse a lot of my students and clients.
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Bob Nailor
2014-11-03
Always glad to help. Students?
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Tamie Dearen
2014-11-03
Great explanation. Now do lie, lay, laid, laying, lying...
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Bob Nailor
2014-11-03
I thought I'd done that but can't find it, so look for it in the coming weeks. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Tara
2014-11-03
Once again helping us all be better writers.
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Bob Nailor
2014-11-04
That's what I hoped for when I began doing these writing tips - to assist other writers in becoming better.
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Rebekah Lyn
2014-11-04
I had to repeat this to myself for years then I started seconding guessing myself. Thanks for the refresher.
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Bob Nailor
2014-11-04
I still screw up from time to time but now with Onisha's suggestion, I think I can keep it straight in my head a lot better.
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Lisa Jey Davis
2014-11-04
I get so frustrated when I see those two words used incorrectly (especially if it's in something I've written!!! BAHAHA!) Great post Bob!
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James Prescott
2014-11-05
Always useful to be reminded of these things - thanks Bob!
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