March 25, 2015

Weekly Language Usage Tips: affect or effect

Posted in affect/effect at 5:27 pm by dlseltzer

The calendar says that is spring. Okay, if you say so. If it’s spring, then it must be time to review the difference between affect and effect. Mixing up these words is very common. In fact, I just reviewed a grant proposal that was chock full of instances of affect being used for effect and vice versa. So, let’s review this puppy.

‘Affect’ is usually a verb, and ‘effect’ is usually a noun. Sometimes, I just hate the word ‘usually.’ That’s because there are times when ‘affect’ can be a noun, and ‘effect’ cab be a verb. No wonder we are always so confused.

Let’s talk about their most common forms first. ‘Affect,’ as a verb, means ‘to influence or have an effect on.’

The study was groundbreaking and affected the way patients with cataracts were treated for all time.

‘Effect,’ as a noun, means ‘result.’

The primary effect of changing the medication is that the patents seem more lethargic than usual.

That’s straightforward, right? You just have to remember which is which. How about this: ‘affect’ starts with ‘a’ like adverb, and it’s a verb—get it? A for affect and adverb, and it’s A verb. I don’t know—maybe that’s a stretch. Let’s move on.

‘Affect,’ as a noun, is used in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, and refers to one’s external persona (there are more precise meanings, but this will do for now).

The supervisor’s affect was cold and stern and generally off putting to the employees.

‘Effect, as a verb, means ‘to bring about.’

The Congress, as a result of working in a bipartisan manner to pass the legislation, was able to effect change.

Of course, that is as likely as the temperature reaching 70 degrees anytime soon.

Happy spring!


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