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AFFECT vs. EFFECT

These two words are so close in spelling and pronunciation, it’s no wonder people get them confused. The easiest way to keep them straight is to remember this little mantra: Use affect when you are describing an action (verb); use effect when you are naming something (noun).

Examples: The weather always affects the attendance at my son’s soccer games. (influences)

                      My mother affected agreement even though she disapproved of my decision. (pretended)

                       Lacy’s accident had an immediate effect on the mood of the party. (outcome, result)

                        Lacy’s tears were purely for effect. (distinctive impression)

If that were the whole story, it wouldn’t be so hard to keep them separate, would it? Unfortunately, there’s more. Affect can sometimes be used as a noun, while effect can sometimes be used as a verb. Isn’t English fun?

Thankfully, affect is used as a noun only in the context of psychology, and the accent is on the first syllable rather than the second. It refers to the display of emotion or mood. Example: Jason displayed no affect when he was confronted with the murder weapon.

Effect as a verb means to make something happen, to cause to come into being, or to put into operation. Example: The goal of the demonstration had been to effect a major change in campus politics.

Using effect as the verb instead of affect will change the meaning of the entire sentence, so tread lightly here!

          The adverse publicity affected the election of Mr. Jones. (Mr. Jones may or may not have been elected.)

          The adverse publicity effected the election of Mr. Jones. (Mr. Jones was elected.)

     Explanation: The verb affect denotes having an effect or influence. The verb effect goes beyond mere influence and refers to actual achievement of a final result.

If you’ve followed this far, good for you! Now you can confidently use affect and effect correctly in every situation. If you’re still a little confused, just remember the first two examples at the top and you’ll probably be correct 99% of the time.

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