What if you just kept getting caught up in the small stuff as a writer?
This happens to many writers who encounter “affect” and “effect,” two of the most commonly confused words in the English language. Even for native speakers and experienced writers, it can be easy to make mistakes if you don’t know the difference. Unfortunately, one little mistake can pull your reader out of the magic of your story.
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 the grammar rules of affect vs. effect and how to choose the correct word every time. You’ll also get a chance to see a few example sentences of each one of these words in practice.
How are “affect” and “effect” different?
The basic difference between these two words is that “affect” is usually a verb while “effect” is usually a noun. When something is affected, it creates an effect. For example, volatile emotions affect our ability to do well at school. The effect? Poor test results!
You can remember this by thinking of their first letters—A for Action and E for End Result. This will keep you using these words correctly in almost every case. However, there are a couple exceptions which we’ll talk about more below.
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 alike, and their different meanings can sometimes overlap.
Unless someone really emphasizes the first syllable of the word, “affect” and “effect” can sound very similar when spoken out loud. Depending on the context, each word can become either a noun or a verb.
Because they’re so closely related, it’s very easy for even experienced writers to mix them up.
“Affect” definition and examples
Let’s take a closer look at the Action word, “affect,” so you can use the right word in the right moment.
What does “affect” mean?
The word “affect” means that someone or something acted on, influenced, or otherwise changed something else. It can also mean that something has evoked an emotional reaction. For example, the stock market crash affected millions of people.
Most of the time, this word is used in its verb form.
More rarely, affect can be used as a noun to describe an emotion or response. This might 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. For example, a patient might exhibit a listless affect after taking a certain medicine.
How to use affect as a verb
The verb “affect” is used whenever you want to show how one thing changed another thing. For example, you might write that “These legal changes will affect voters deeply, motivating them to act.” Or, “the cold weather affected his ability to concentrate.”
Example of verb “affect” in a sentence
Another 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, “The music deeply affected the crowd.” Here we see how something can affect someone’s mood or create an emotional response—that is, influence or change them.
How to use affect as a noun
The noun “affect” refers to a feeling, emotion, or response that a character is giving off based on their attitude or facial expressions. For instance, you might write that “His weary affect at the voting booth showed what a long year this has been for him.”
Example of the noun “affect” in a sentence
An example of affect in its noun version is “My blind date had a flat affect throughout our entire dinner.”
Here, “affect” uses its noun meaning to indicate a person’s demeanour. It helps to emphasize that the blind date had little chemistry or emotional connection during the date.
“Effect” definition and examples
Now, let’s look closer at the End Result, so you can use “effect” correctly every time.
What does “effect” mean?
The word “effect” as 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. Effect is almost always used in its noun form.
However, effect also has a verb version that means “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 create something.
How use effect as a noun
When “effect” is used as a noun, it helps to point out that one thing is a result or consequence of something else. For example, you might write that “Destructive misogyny is just one effect of a poor education system.”
Like other nouns, you can also use it in its plural form: “Poor education systems have far-reaching effects.”
Examples of the noun “effect” in a sentence
One example of “effect” as a noun is, “My downtime over summer vacation has had a huge effect on my reading.”
Here, we can see the effect (in this case, more time to read) is a direct result of free time in the summer vacation.
Another example of “effect” as a noun is, “The positive 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.
How use effect as a verb
“Effect” as a verb means to produce change. If you wish to use it in its verb form, 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’ll now how to choose the right word and make your own writing that much more versatile.
Examples of the verb “effect” in a sentence
An example of “effect” in its verb meaning is, “After that last blind date, I’d like to effect change in my love life.” Here, the word “effect” underscores that the person desires to make that change.
You might also say the speaker wants to “effect an emotional response in the audience.” This means they want to bring about a meaningful reaction.
Easy ways to remember the difference between affect vs. effect
One trick way to remember the difference between “affect” and “effect” is to remember that affect starts with “A” and effect starts with “E.” As we mentioned earlier, “affect” is the Action and “effect” is the End Result.
In other words, when we say that something affects something else, we say that it causes an effect.
Another fun way to remember these commonly confused words is the word RAVEN:
Affect is a
Effect is a
Both of these methods are effective ways to remember to use affect as a verb and effect as 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 to bring something about (like, “he effected change at the last faculty meeting”), and that “affect” can be a noun describing an emotion, feeling, or response.
Try to remember the mnemonic words “Elegant Cheerleaders Attack Frenchfries”—Effect Change, Affect Feelings.
Affect vs. effect: putting your skills to use
Now you know more about the differences between the words affect and effect. We’ve seen how when someone affects something, they produce a change known as an effect. Now’s the time for you to put that knowledge to use, and to bring your next story to life!