Affect or Effect: 5 Tricks to Never Use the Wrong One Again

07 Oct 2022


“Grammar is to a writer what anatomy is to a sculptor or the scales to a musician. You may loathe it. It may bore you. But nothing will replace it, and once you’ve mastered it, it will support you like a rock.” — B.J. Chute

The English language has its nuances. Well, some of those nuances can get quite tricky. In some cases, they can be downright frustrating. Take “affect” and “effect.” They look so similar, yet they mean completely different things.

But how can you tell the difference?

In this article, we’re going to explore five tricks never to use the wrong one again. So, sit tight because we have lots of information coming your way!

5 Tricks for Using Affect and Effect Correctly

Trick #1: Know the difference.

Let’s start by focusing on the difference between both words. On the surface, they appear to mean the same thing. So, it’s worth keeping things simple.

Affect is a verb meaning “to produce an effect upon” or “to influence.”

For instance: “Her words affected him deeply.

In this example, “her words” produced an effect upon him.

Effect is a noun meaning “a change that occurs when something happens” or “the result of a change.”

For example: “The report had a major effect on the investors.”

In this example, we see that the report produced a change in the investors’ mindsets.

So, please remember that affect indicates an action while effect refers to a result.

Trick #2: Effect is an action, too.

All right, so effect can be a verb, too. This exception is easy to spot.

Let’s start by looking at an example:

The new government regulations effected changes in company policy.

In this context, effect is a verb meaning to cause to come into being. In other words, effect, as a verb, means to accomplish something.

In our example, the company policy change came into effect because the government issued new regulations. Therefore, one action caused the other to occur.

So, the next time you think about how one event impacts another, consider using “effect” as a verb.

Trick #3: Affect can also be a noun.

Affect, as a noun, refers to an emotional response. Think about it this way: it’s your attitude or demeanor when facing a person or situation.

Consider this example:

Her affect did not seem to change when John gave her the news.

In this example, affect refers to her emotional response. Specifically, she didn’t seem to react when John told her the news.

So, when you want to talk about someone’s reactions, you can use “affect” as a noun.


Trick #4: Think about “cause and effect.”

Here’s a neat little trick you can use to remember the difference between affect and effect.

Think about cause and effect. Thus, “effect” is the result of an action.

Consider this example:

Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have had a significant effect on climate change.

In this example, the cause is “increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” So, the effect is “a significant effect on climate change.” As you can see, climate change is the result of increased levels of carbon dioxide. This statement indicates a cause-and-effect relationship.

Now, here’s a pro tip: “Cause” ends in an “E,” and “effect” begins with an “E.” So, a cause leads to an effect. This memory trick can help you remember that an “effect” is the result of an action or change.

Trick #5: Affect is an action that starts with an “A.”

This trick uses an easy memory trick. Since affect is a verb, you can think of it as an action. Affect is a verb because it starts with an “A.” While that’s not the actual grammatical rule, it certainly helps differentiate affect’s proper usage.

Here’s an example to consider:

I don’t know how the new company policy will affect employee morale.

In the example above, affect is an action. So, we shouldn’t use effect because effect starts with an “E,” not an “A.”

Can you see how this pro tip helps you spot the difference?

So, the next time you’re thinking about which one to use, please remember that affect, as an action, starts with an “A.”

Bonus Tip: Keep things simple.

Getting the hang of effect and affect takes a little time and practice. So, it’s always best to keep things simple at first. Think about your daily routine and ask yourself, “How can I use affect and effect in my daily tasks?”

Here’s a simple but effective four-step plan:

  1. Try to imagine real-life situations in which you could use effect and affect.
  2. Then, write out phrases you can use to communicate your ideas.
  3. Next, review your phrases to ensure you have the proper usage.
  4. Lastly, read them aloud. Reading phrases aloud will help them stick in your memory more easily.

Writing out sentences may seem somewhat boring, but here’s the low down: Getting grammar right is about finding your groove. And, what’s the best way to find your groove? Yup, you guessed it, practice!

Practicing and internalizing phrases helps you become more comfortable with grammar. Over time, you don’t need to think about the right usage. You’ll get it automatically. Ultimately, you’ll become more confident with your speaking and writing skills.

One Final Thought

Taking the guesswork out of language is always the best way to go. The less you need to think about using the right words and expressions, the easier it will become for you to speak and write effectively.

Please remember that taking time to practice grammar, even if it bores you, will help you master it. Eventually, grammar will support you like a rock. Mastering grammar is one of those skills that boost your self-confidence. Tackling tricky grammar points can put a little extra swagger in your step!

Zach Richter 

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