Is it Effect or Affect?

The difference between "effect" and "affect" is one of the most common questions we receive as paper editors. Consequently, it is also one of the errors that we correct most often.

The fact is that it’s very easy to understand how to use these words, but you must commit a few things to memory.

First, in most cases, "affect" is used as a verb. On the other hand, "effect" is used as a noun. Rare exceptions to this first rule are outlined later in this article.

Second, given the first rule, "affect" means "to influence" while "effect" implies "a result." Here are a few examples:

The effect of his injury was devastating.

The wind affected the flight of my golf ball.

If you follow these two rules, you will correctly use these words 95 percent of the time. But what about the rare exceptions that don't follow the rules above? Let’s look at those now.

"Effect" can be used as a verb and "affect" can be used as a noun in certain cases. "Affect" is often used as a noun when referring to psychology, and it refers to the mood of a person.

He demonstrated a happy affect.

On the other hand, when it is used as a verb, effect means "to bring about."

As president, he hoped to effect change on the country for the greater good.

As you can see, unless you are in the field of psychology, the use of "affect" as a noun is not very common. However, the use of "effect" as a verb is used regularly both in writing and in speech, so it is important to commit this rare exception to memory.

If you are unsure of which word to use, follow the first two rules above. If you apply them correctly, you will use the words correctly 95 percent of the time.

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