Affect vs. Effect

Is it Affect or Effect?

Affect and effect are two words that give people a lot of pause.  Which one is it?
If you learn this basic rule, you will be correct almost all of the time.

Affect is a verb.  The way I remember this is A is for Action, so that means verb.
Therefore, effect is the other one, a noun.

First, let’s briefly discuss affect.  When you take an action which causes a result, that action will affect something.

The students’ participation in a study group will affect their grades next semester.  (Here, affect is used as a verb.  Will affect is the verb of the sentence.)

Next, let’s focus on effect.  When an action causes a result, then that result is a noun, and you would use effect.

The students’ participation in a study group will have a positive effect on their grades next semester.  (Here, effect is used as a noun, the result of the students’ study group.)

Note that I said in the first paragraph that you will be correct almost all of the time if you follow my noun/verb rule.  There are some rare exceptions where the uses of affect and effect are reversed.

Affect can be used as a noun in psychology.  It refers to the mood that someone may have.  A psychologist may testify in a deposition, for example: “She had an unhappy affect.”  While no psychologist or psychiatrist can really know how someone else is feeling, she may say how they appeared to be feeling, and this is how she will often phrase it.

Effect can also be used as a verb to essentially “bring about” or “to accomplish.”
The politicians failed to effect the change they had planned.
This is a much less common use of the word effect, but you should still be familiar with this spelling when needed.

So, except for these last two exceptions, just remember A/Action/Affect.  Sweet and simple!

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