If you’re like me, your grammar school days are long behind you. I definitely remember filling out The Elements of Style Workbook (Strunk and White), but I don’t remember what I wrote. And much like any other adult who similarly disregarded the rules of grammar, I am now paying for my inattention. On the bright side, learning the difference between affect and effect is a memory game – give yourself a mnemonic to remember.
If you do mix these two words up, it can lead to some sticky situations that can really affect the way people perceive you and your content. The effect of that perception can negatively impact you! This the place for advice – after all, I just used both words correctly in two sentences, so you know I’m prepared to clarify.
“Affect” is a verb meaning “to have an effect on.” Well now, that isn’t very helpful considering it uses the easily confused “effect” in the definition. Instead, focus on affect being a verb. A verb indicates action – you hiked up the mountain; you drove the car; you play the violin. All words in bold are verbs that denote action. When you affect something, you’re creating something from your action of affecting. For example, you can easily affect the amount of work you put into cleaning your house by picking up a little every day. Or you can positively affect someone’s day by bringing them tacos! Remember: A for Action = Affect!
“Effect” is a noun meaning “a change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause.” It can also mean the impact something has on something else. At the most basic level, a noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. An example of ways to use nouns is a taco, a museum, an effect, or a belief. Actions are done to these things, but they are not actions. For example, you can push a crowd through a museum, but you can’t museum someone through a crowd. Similarly, you can positively affect someone with a delivery of tacos, but the effect that taco can cause later can be unpleasant.
So there you have it – affect vs effect and how to use each. I always ask myself before using either: “am I affecting something or is this the effect of the action?” Put simply, ask yourself: What am I affecting with my tacos and what will be their effect later? In each case, I wish you deliciousness!
Katherine Reynolds is the Business Solutions Coordinator for Bardwrite N.A. and the Social Media Coordinator for Docforce. She has a passion for helping people and organization and enjoys working closely with others. If she isn’t in the office or at home reading and playing with her dogs, she’s out in the boonies hiking.