Word Choice: Effect vs. Affect
  • 2-minute read
  • 3rd July 2014

Word Choice: Effect vs. Affect

Despite the fact that “effect” is usually a noun and “affect” is primarily a verb, many people confuse these words. To avoid making this mistake, you should try to learn which is which. Luckily, this is fairly straightforward.

Effect

The word “effect” is usually a noun and means “consequence” or “result.” It can be used in a sentence like this:

The effects of sun damage are long lasting.

“Effects” can also sometimes mean personal items, as in “I will gather my effects and then we can go.” You should be able to discern the correct meaning from the context.

Less commonly, “effect” can be used as a verb meaning “cause to happen,” such as in:

The changes were effected throughout the company.

Affect

The word “affect” is usually a verb, meaning “change or influence.” For example:

New strings on a violin affect the quality of the tone produced.

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It can also be used to describe emotional response, as in:

He was deeply affected by what he saw.

As a related noun, “affect” refers to the observable manifestations of an emotion, but this is mostly confined to psychology.

Be aware that the word “affected” can mean “put on a display” or “pretend something.” If someone doesn’t want to show that they are offended, for instance, we might say that they “affected a show of nonchalance” to hide their real feelings.

Effect or Affect?

These terms are confusing because they sound so similar and both can be used when discussing a change. The vital thing to remember here is that “effect” is usually a noun and “affect” is typically a verb.

As such, if you’re referring to the change itself, the term you’ll need is “effect” (e.g., “the effects of stress can be devastating to your health”).

On the other hand, if you’re referring to the act of causing a change, the word you’ll usually need is “affect” (e.g., “stress can seriously affect your health”).

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