The misuse of the words “affect” and “effect” is such an epidemic that some folks are considering assembling regional support groups to deal with the problem. But while the words are often used incorrectly, deciding whether to use affect or effect isn’t as tough to as you may think. Let me explain.
“Affect” is generally used as a verb: A affects B. The eye-patch affected my vision. In this sentence, the eye-patch (A) influenced my vision (B).
“Effect,” on the other hand, is almost exclusively used as a noun: A had an effect on B. Acting like a pirate has had a negative effect on my social life.
So the basic rule of thumb is that “affect” is almost always a verb and “effect” is usually a noun. There are deviations from this, but when in doubt, stick to the rule. If you need help remembering, think of this mnemonic device: The action is affect, the end result is effect.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.