What if you just kept getting caught up in the small stuff as a writer?
This happens to many writers who confuse “affect” vs. “effect,” and it’s easy to make mistakes if you don’t know the difference. When you start trying to fix those mistakes, it can throw off your entire writing process!
You don’t have to worry about that happening to you, though. We’re here to walk you through everything you need to know about affect vs. effect and how to use each one!
Why is it so easy to confuse “affect” vs. “effect?”
It’s easy to confuse “affect” and “effect” because the two words look and sound very similar, and their meanings can sometimes overlap.
Unless someone really emphasizes the first letter of the word, affect and effect can sound very similar when spoken out loud. Depending on the context, each word can be used as either a noun or a verb—more on this later. With all of that combined with the close relationship between the two words, it can be very easy for even experienced writers to mix them up.
What does “affect” mean?
The word “affect” means that someone or something acted on something else or otherwise changed something else. “Affect” can also mean that something has evoked an emotional reaction in someone else. Most of the time, this word is used as a verb.
More rarely, affect can also be used as a noun to describe an emotion, feeling, or response. This can be used to describe how someone is feeling, or it can be used more clinically to describe how patients responded to things like experiments, medications, and treatments.
Example of “affect” in a sentence
One example of affect used as a verb is, “The tropical storm really affected his ability to see his family.” Here, “affected” is a verb that is modifying the word “ability.” It means that the storm acted upon his ability to see his family.
Another example of affect used as a verb is, “William Shakespeare affected literature like few other writers.” Here, “affected” is a verb that is modifying the noun “literature.” It means that Shakespeare acted upon literature to somehow change it.
An example of affect used as a noun is as follows: “My blind date had a flat affect throughout our entire dinner.” Here, “affect” is a noun that means “a person’s demeanor.” It helps to emphasize that the blind date had little chemistry or emotional response during the date. When used this way, “affect” is pronounced differently, with the stress on the first syllable (like AFF-ect). Spoken out loud, this can help to emphasize that you’re using affect as a noun.
What does “effect” mean?
The word “effect” as a noun means a “consequence” or a “result.” It has a close relationship with the word “affect,” because the effect is a result of whatever was affected. So when one thing affects another, the change can be described as the effect.
While it’s used more rarely as a verb, effect can also be verb meaning “to bring something about.” For example, someone might want to effect a change in their local government, and the word “effect” describes their desire to do something.
Examples of “effect” in a sentence
One example of “effect” as a noun is, “Catching up on my reading has been one pleasant effect of my summer vacation.” Here, we can see the effect (in this case, more time to read) is a direct result or free time in the summer vacation.
Another example of “effect” as a noun is, “The effect of William Shakespeare’s talent was to inspire many future generations of writers.” In this case, Shakespeare’s talent is the cause, and the effect is the outsize influence he’s had on other writers during both his life and his death. His talent caused inspiration for other writers.
An example of “effect” as a verb is, “After that last blind date, I’d like to effect a change in my love life.” Here, the word “effect” underscores that the person desires to make that change. Someone hearing this pronouncement might say, “That blind date really affected you,” indicating the causal relationship between the date and the person’s current attitude.
Easy ways to remember the difference between affect vs. effect
One way to remember the difference between “affect” and “effect” is to emphasize that affect is normally a verb, and effect is normally a noun. You simply need to remember that affect starts with “A” and means “Action.” The effect is the result of that action.
In other words, when we say that something affects something else, we say that it causes an effect.
There’s another way to remember the difference between affect and effect: the mnemonic device RAVEN. RAVEN stands for Remember Affect is a Verb, Effect is a Noun.
Both of these methods are effective ways to remember that affect is a verb and effect is a noun. However, it’s important to remember the exceptions to this rule that we discussed above: that “effect” can be used as a verb expressing that someone brought something about (like, “he effected change at the last faculty meeting”), and that “affect” can be a noun describing an emotion, feeling, or response (like, “he had a flat affect despite the fact that it’s his birthday”).
How and when to use affect
If you wish to use “affect” as a verb, you should use it whenever you want to show how one thing changed another thing. For example, you might write that “These legal changes affected voters deeply, motivating them to act.”
If you wish to use “affect” as a noun, you should use it whenever you want to describe the feeling, emotion, or response that a character is giving off based on their demeanor. For example, you might write that “His weary affect at the voting booth showed what a long year this has been for him.”
How and when to use effect
To use “effect” as a noun, you should use it whenever you want to point out that one thing is a result or consequence of something else. For example, you might write that “Mobilizing voters is just one effect of these sweeping legal changes.”
If you wish to use effect as a verb, you should use it whenever you want to express a desire to bring something about. For example, “Voters hope to effect massive change at the ballot box.”
By understanding the distinction between effect as a noun and as a verb, you can make your own writing that much more versatile.
Affect vs. Effect: Putting Your Skills to Use
Now you know more about the differences between affect and effect. But as G.I. Joe reminds us, knowing is only half the battle. Now’s the time for you to put that knowledge to use, and too bring your next story to life!