The Write Stuff – Blog

Mar 05 2011 Affect vs. Effect – Getting Them Right
Affect vs Effect - getting them right

These two words are perhaps the most confused and misused in the English language. Without getting bogged down with which is a noun and which is a verb – and the exceptions to the rules – here you’ll find some simple tips to remember the difference between these words and how they should be used in day-to-day language. 

AFFECT

To cause a change, provoke an emotion, or take on a change:

  • The medicine may affect his behaviour over time.
  • His advice affected the way they viewed their policy.
  • The bad weather will undoubtedly affect the outcome of the game.
  • She was deeply affected by the speech.
  • He affected a limp to gain sympathy from his friends.
EFFECT

To result in a change:

  • The medicine effected a gradual change in his behaviour.
  • His advice effected a change to their policy.
  • The outcome of the game was a direct effect of the poor weather.
  • The speech was used with great effect to move the crowd to tears.
  • His limp did not produce the effect he was looking for.

How to tell if you have it right

Try replacing affect with words like:

change, modify, shape, alter, influence, move, touch, stir, impress, take on, simulate

Try replacing effect with words like:

outcome, end result, conclusion, bearing, bring about, cause, result, consequence, reaction, produced, issue

If your sentence no longer makes sense, you haven’t used the right word. Try substituting these words in the examples above to see how it works.

Remember:   AFFECT = Change / EFFECT = Result of change

Got questions about this post or anything else writing related? Feel free to ask them on my Facebook page where I’ll answer them for you.

Posted in Copywriting Tips by 7 comments

7 Responses to “Affect vs. Effect – Getting Them Right”

  • Reply Nick Morris March 07, 2011at 10:41 am

    A timely post Anna (for me) I just having trouble with these two recently. I actually thought I had it sorted out in my head before, then the start of your article confused me again… but the ‘How to tell if you have it right’ section cleared it up. Cheers.

    • Reply Anna Peterson March 07, 2011at 10:54 am

      Hi Nick, I’m glad I cleared up any confusion that may have been caused – they sure are tricky and even professional writers will often get these two wrong.

      Of course, like so much of the English language, these words also come with a bunch of exceptions (which don’t help!) but for day-to-day use the above tips should serve you well.

  • Reply Chris March 08, 2011at 10:25 am

    Hi Anna,
    I’ve always struggled with this one, the “How to tell if you have it right” part helps a lot, bookmarked!

    • Reply Anna Peterson March 08, 2011at 10:29 am

      Thanks Chris! I’m so pleased you’ve found it helpful.

  • Reply Bridie Jenner March 09, 2011at 11:04 am

    Oh yes, these are the two words that drive me insane!

    Thanks for your blog post, I’ll bookmark it for future reference….. which will be often!

    • Reply Anna Peterson March 09, 2011at 11:11 am

      Great to know it’s proving to be such a helpful post. Thanks Bridie 😀

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