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By Judy Vorfeld

Affect or Effect? What’s the Difference?

If you’re con­fused about when to use “affect” and “effect,” you have company!

AFFECT means to change, touch, impress or influ­ence some­thing. It means to act upon something.

If some­one dis­tracts me when I’m typ­ing, it affects my accu­racy. A song can affect your mood. The high qual­ity of the pre­sen­ta­tion affected the CEO’s opinion.

Affect isn’t used much as a noun or a plain verb. Generally it’s used as shown above.

EFFECT (when it’s a tran­si­tive verb) means to cause, to bring about often by sur­mount­ing obsta­cles, or to put into oper­a­tion. Think of “accom­plish” and “perform.”

Jan Pierson effected a set­tle­ment of the dis­pute. The leg­is­la­ture was elected to effect the will of the people.

When effect is used as a noun, we get into an area of mul­ti­ple mean­ings.

  • Effect means intent, essence, appear­ance, accom­plish­ment, ful­fill­ment, influence.

  • Effect can also mean goods or per­sonal effects: mov­able property.

  • Effect can mean giv­ing an impres­sion: Blue gives the effect of peace … Eve’s tears were just for effect.

  • Effect can mean some­thing designed to pro­duce a dis­tinc­tive or desired impres­sion, like spe­cial effects.

  • Effect is also the state of being oper­a­tive: The law ban­ning mus­taches goes into effect July 1.

  • Effect can be used as a sum­ma­tion. You end up say­ing, “In effect (vir­tu­ally), John Smith agreed to wear a tuxedo once a year.”

  • Effect can be “with the mean­ing.” Homer Simpson issued a state­ment to the effect that he would run the Boston Marathon. Next year. Maybe.

Professor Paul Brians’ page on Affect and Effect


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