Weekly Grammar Tip: affect/effect

What’s the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’?

AFFECT is a verb which means “to influence” or “to make a difference”, for example:

An absence of chocolate greatly affects my ability to think.

EFFECT is a noun which means “result” or “consequence”, for example:

For best effect, start with a good cup of coffee.

The EFFECT of the coffee could be felt for days as everyone was AFFECTED by the burst in productivity.


Full disclosure: I get these two mixed up all the time! I’ve simplified the definitions and usage in this post – effect can also be a verb meaning “to cause”. Confusing, right?!

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9 comments on “Weekly Grammar Tip: affect/effect

  1. Pingback: Weekly Grammar Tip: practise/practice « dodging commas

  2. Pingback: Quote of the Day | Brian Albrecht

  3. It’s amazing how much stuff like this regularly confuses people – happened to me before as well. Reminds me of a book I’ve got (the name of which I can’t recall) which is actually about exactly this kind of thing, confusion points in the english language! 😀 stunning how much there is!

  4. And to make things even more confusing:
    Affect can also be a noun that describes someone’s general mood or behavior. (She had a flat affect.)

    I think the only way to really keep them straight is to simply use them repeatedly until it becomes second-nature. (Practice makes perfect, right?) Failing that, we could beat ourselves until we got the *effect* we were trying to *effect*, unless we *affect* our brains so much that we have a change of *affect*. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  5. I agree – it is confusing! I think I will have to keep a sticky note somewhere with this definition. I wonder if it’s a hangover from the days when everyone spelt english words phonetically, and spelling was not standardised?

    • I’m pretty sure someone sat down with a pen and paper and said “How will I mess with people’s heads? Ah-ha!” and thus the English language was born.

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