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Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)

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“Affect” versus “Effect”

Writers are often confused by the similar word pair “affect” and “effect.” Yet, a simple rule will help you determine which one to properly use in almost every situation. Generally speaking, “affect” is typically used as a verb meaning “to influence, act on, or cause a change in.” For example, “the early frost affected the yields of the crops.” In contrast, “effect” is typically used as noun meaning “a result or consequence.” For example, “the effects of the early frost on the crops were quite remarkable.”

My little trick for remembering which word to use in the right situation is to remember the phrase “cause and effect.” This reminds me that “effect” is usually used as a noun as is the case in this phrase, and by process of elimination, “affect” is usually used as a verb.

Following this general guideline will help you to use the two words appropriately in almost every circumstance. However, I would be remiss if I did not highlight the exceptions to this guideline. For example, in psychology, “affect” can be used as a noun meaning “an expressed feeling or emotion.” However, this use is very specific to the field of psychology. Also, “effect” can occasionally be used as a verb to mean “bring about or accomplish.” For example, “new legislation is expected to effect change in the way campaign money is used.” Despite these exceptions, the previous guideline will help you confidently use these two often confused words with more confidence.

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