Affect versus effect: why some people can never do things right


How often do you find yourself confusing the use of the words “affect” and “effect” while writing?

This is a common mistake that occurs in the complex jungle of the English language because the two spellings sound alike. Yet, in the end, they both mean very different things that can get lost in translation.

The quick and easy version of understanding affect versus effect looks like this:

Affect is usually a verb, and its definition is: to impact or to change.

Effect is typically a noun, and its definition is: the result of a change.

There’s even the catchy acronym RAVEN that you can use to remember affect versus effect:

R = Remember

A = Affect is

V = a verb

E = Effect is

N = a name

These are the basics, but there are particular situations that may confuse us when they break the rules for using these words.

Let’s get to the bottom of the confusing debate between effect and effect to make sure you use these two different spellings with the appropriate meaning you want in your writing.

Causes of affect and effect confusion

The root of much of the dizzying confusion related to affect and effect stems from these two words having a common Latin ancestor, the verb face to facewhich means “to do” or “do”.

Now let’s go a little further and identify the fact that “to affect” in English derives from the Latin verb affiliatewhich means “to do something for” or “to have an influence on”.

Moreover, “effect” comes from the Latin verb efficientwhich means “to do” or “to achieve”.

With this linguistic history lesson fresh in your mind, it’s understandable that two English vocabulary words pronounced the same way could have different meanings.

For the most part, sticking to the basic guideline of effect be a name and affect being a verb is a pretty clear roadmap to using both words well when these situations arise in your writing.

The difference between affect and effect

As we said before, affect is a verb and effect is a noun; but these rules must be preceded by the words “most of the time”.

For example, if Roy carries his baby Thomas in a bathtub with water, Roy affects where Thomas is, and Thomas being wet is the effect of Roy putting him in the water of the bath.

Roy has performed an action that signals the use of the verb: affect. The result (effect) of this verb is “wetness”, a noun that probably makes Thomas feel wet instead of dry like he was before he was in the tub.

Affect and effect are different parts of speech, and when similar sound pairs like these get tricky because they are pronounced as homophones in the same way as similar sounds like write/right, here / hear and bear / nu are pronounced.

When to use affect

Now that we’ve established that “affect” means to influence or produce a change in something, let’s look at some good use cases and tips.

Correct examples:

The blizzard affected residents within seven miles of Detroit.

The medicine will affect your vision for about an hour.

Scientists and government agencies examine how sustainable development affects the environment and its place in deciding future environmental issues.

The amount of gravity affecting an object on Earth depends on the mass of the object being attracted and the distance between the objects.

The loss of the athletics competition also affected Jonathan’s academic performance.


A is for action. Verbs are actions. Affect begins with an A. It is therefore a verb.

People can be affected by an event, which often means that the effect is on an emotional and psychological level.

When to use the effect

Effect is a name, and its definition is: the result of a change. Therefore, if you feel the effect of an event if it affects your life,

Correct examples:

The effect of the blizzard was tumultuous for the residents.

You will feel the effect of the aspirin within the next fifteen minutes.

Melissa’s home run during the baseball game took a toll on her confidence.

Exceptions to affect and effect rules

Effect as a verb

Effect used as a verb means: to cause (usually associated with nouns like “change” or “solutions”:

Local organizations worked to bring about positive change in their neighborhood.

Assign as name

Affect as a noun means specific emotion, feeling or emotional response:

The hospitalized patient had a flat effect throughout his therapy.

Affected as an adjective

Affected can be used as an adjective in some cases, such as when it means contrived, pretentious, or designed to impress.

Keep in mind that it’s usually not a compliment, such as when someone is acting sassy.


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