affect or effect

Affect or Effect?


2024 Grammar-for-Grownups Top 10


Number 8: Affect and Effect


This question pops up in almost every #IAAP CAPstone Business Writing Specialty Certificate course, and this semester’s cohort had the same question.


Question: “Mandi, is there a trick to remembering when to use affect or effect?”


Answer: Oh, how I wish there were a simple gimmick to help us remember when to use affect or effect. Alas, that’s why it’s so tricky; there’s no sure-fire memorable saying to help with this sometimes confusing word choice. And, it’s not as simple as saying affect is a verb and effect is a noun. So, how do we know when to use which word?


Below is what I shared with the cohort. It boils down to word substitution—but I’ve found it really works.


Effect is a noun. When effect is being used as a noun, it means “result.”


One effect of Tropical Storm Bob was closed beaches in Mobile Bay.


Translation: One result of Tropical Storm Bob was closed beaches in Mobile Bay.


Another way to look at it is if you can put an or the in front of it, use effect.


Affect is a verb. When affect is being used a verb, it means “to change or influence.”


Tropical Storm Bob affected our vacation plans.


Translation: Tropical Storm Bob changed our vacation plans.


Life would be sweet if it really were that simple, but here’s the catch. Effect also can be used as a verb. And when effect is a verb, it means “to cause.” [Think of cause and effect.]


This new HR policy will effect a change in our organizational chart.


Translation: This new HR policy will cause a change in our organizational chart.


This word substitution works for me. I’m curious if you have any other memorable tricks for effect and affect—and effect. Please share in the comments.



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