The Merry Grammarian

Effect vs Affect

The email made me cringe: “It’s going to effect everything,” she wrote.

Did you catch the error? It was the word “effect” – in this case, it should have been “affect.”

Misusing “effect” and “affect” is one of the most common grammatical errors—as proven by this email, which was written by an English teacher.

But which one to use is actually pretty straightforward. Let’s take a closer look:

Affect is most commonly used as a verb. It’s an action word that indicates an influence or change: “The accident affected me.” Or: “I will be affected by the changes to the healthcare policy.”

Effect, on the other hand, is most often used as a noun, usually when you’re referring to the end result of something: “The lack of Internet service had a negative effect on my experience at the hotel.” Or: “I felt better once medication took effect.”

Occasionally, “effect” can be used as a verb, and “affect” can be used as a noun. This ambiguity in the rules sometimes trips people up.

But those instances are rare. Affect is generally only used as a noun in the field of medicine, in reference to how someone responds to stimuli: “The man took the news with little affect.”

Effect is generally only used as a verb to describe something that was caused: “The mayor effectedchange across the city.”

In the vast majority of cases, however, you’re looking at “affect” as a verb and “effect” as a noun.

So next time you’re confused, try this rule of thumb: The action is affect, the end result is effect.

Hopefully, it will have a positive “effect” on your writing!