The Affect of an Effect…or Something Like That

affectvseffectI’ve tried writing this post about three times today. I’ve scrapped it, rewritten it, and tried to find a way to not confuse you or myself. After some screaming, crying, and hair pulling, I’ve researched several sites and have been able to compile what this whole affect/effect nonsense is all about. No seriously. Read this post. I spent about 5 hours on it.

I hate these words.

Don’t we all? They sound alike, look alike, have freakishly similar meanings, and yet your professor will always circle it in that horrific red pen. Or your boss. Whatever. They are actually pretty simple when you use them in the common way–it’s when you try to get fancy that these words are not so cool.


Let’s go through this alphabetically and start with affect. Affect is predominantly used as a VERB. If you want to use a verb, affect is your best bet. For example, “The storm affected the power lines.” Essentially, the storm has influenced the power lines in some way. We’re not quite sure how, but it has. Affect as a verb means to influence or cause a change in something.

There is a very rare usage of affect where it becomes a noun. It also changes the pronunciation from “ah-FECT” to “AH-fect.” This is used for psychological terminology, describing someone’s facial expression. “She was clearly unamused, which was apparent by her flat affect.” More often than not though, affect will be a verb.


If affect is almost always a verb, then effect is almost always a NOUN. You most commonly hear it in the phrase “cause and effect.” It is something that is created, or brought about, by a specific antecedent, or cause. There’s a clear connection from A–>B. (A) is your cause or influence, and (B) is your outcome, or effect. Notice in the above example with the storm, we don’t have a clear outcome. We have the cause (A–the storm) but we don’t have an effect (B–HOW did it influence the power lines?). So now, let’s see an example with a clear effect. “The effect of the storm was devastating.” The storm created devastating results, and those results are the effect of the storm.

Rarely, effect is used as a verb–although it is more common than using affect as a noun. Effect as a verb generally means to cause something or to accomplish something. It is most commonly used as political and legal terminology. “President Obama hopes to effect a solution to the economic crisis.” (Wow it took me forever to come up with that example).

Isn’t there some easy way to remember this?

Just remember affect=verb and effect=noun. I highly doubt you will use the other forms of the words, unless you are taking a psychology or political science course. If you start doubting yourself, ask yourself, “Am I using this word as a verb or noun?” Once you answer that, you should be able to determine which word you’re looking for.

However, I like cheat sheets and simple ways to remember things myself, so I’ll give you a couple tips. If any of the following words comes right BEFORE it, it will always be effect: a, an, any, the, take, into, no. However, an adjective can come between that word and effect, such as “The pills had the greatest effect on her illness.”

A Quiz? Seriously?

Yeah seriously. Here’s a short quiz, let’s see how you do.

  1. I didn’t know how much your father (affected/effected) you.
  2. We cannot (effect/affect) the policy until the school senate votes on it.
  3. The (effect/affect) of her diet was astounding!
  4. Her (affect/effect) clearly showed that she was depressed.
  5. The movie had two (effects/affects) on her: She applied for a dance program in college and decided to take up ballet.


  1. Affected (Used as a verb, your father “influenced” you)
  2. Effect (Used as a verb, we cannot “create” the policy)
  3. Effect (Used as a noun, the “result” of her diet–don’t forget the “the” trick)
  4. Affect (Used as a noun, her “facial expression” showed)
  5. Effect (Used as a noun, the movie had two “results” on her)

Well how did you do?

I hope this post helped clear things up for you. I spent hours researching this and I know it’s certainly AFFECTED ME!!!! Ha ha ha…I’m hilarious. Thanks for reading and good luck!

Posted in Grammar Quick Fix.


  1. Very well done, Kelly! The “meatball grammar” explanation I use when writing comments on student papers is “affect=verb, effect=noun”–you’re right about that covering most cases.

  2. Ha! FINALLY, an explaination I can live with! YAY!!! Will DEFINITELY be bookmarking this one, Kelly. Well done!! 🙂

  3. Brilliant! Thank you for putting all the time to do this. Five hours of your time sacrificed saving the rest of us countless hours agony. (Not to mention all the red ink you have saved)

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