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Grammar Granny        < Previous        Next >


'Affect' Vs. 'Effect'


A citizen received a letter from a state senator with a common spelling error. He confused "affect" and "effect."


He wrote, "I am reviewing both the contents of the bill and the affect it would have."


The senator meant "effect" when he wrote "affect." The bill would have an "effect," not an "affect."


"Effect" is usually a noun, meaning "result." It is something that is caused by something else - a consequence. It also can mean the power to produce results. Examples: "her smile had the effect of making him blush," or "his protest had no effect."


"Affect" is usually in verb form. It means "to act on, change or influence." Weather affects the success of picnics; too much chocolate affects your waistline. It has other meanings, too, but that's the main one.


Here's where the confusion comes in: "effect" can be a verb, too, meaning "to bring about" or "accomplish." Example: "the new manager effected the transition to new machines." He didn't "affect" the transition - that would mean that he "resulted" it.


To help avoid this confusion, just avoid using "effect" as a verb. It's a weak, passive construction, anyway. Use a more precise word, such as "achieved" or "produced."


The net EFFECT of recognizing the differences between "effect" and "affect" will probably AFFECT how smart other people think you are. Maybe that state senator would be more . . . EFFECTIVE . . . if he recognized that.


By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 044 2007


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