By Judy Vorfeld
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.