How do I know when to use affect or effect?

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Starting a Sentence with a Conjunction

When I was in high school, and even in college, I always had a hard time remembering when to use affect or effect, so fear not if it happens to you too. There are actually some pretty useful tips for remembering when to use each of them.

When to Use Affect

Use this mnemonic device to remember when to use affect: Remember that affect is an action (verb). Both action and affect start with ‘a.

Example: The law change will affect thousands of people in the area.

The law change is creating an action; therefore, you would use affect.

When To Use Effect

Effect is a noun. It typically means result, or end result. Both start with an ‘e.’

Grammar Underground has a great way to remember when to use effect; just think of the term “side effects.” A side effect is a noun, and it is the end result of using a medication.

Example: The medication had side effects.

Effects, the noun, are the result of the action of taking the medication.

Example: People in three counties felt the effects of the storm.

People in three counties felt the results of the storm.

Are there any rule breakers?

This wouldn’t be the English language if it didn’t break its own rules. While effect is usually a noun, it can also be a verb meaning to “cause something to happen” or to “bring about.” But the University of Kansas recommends replacing “effect” with “implement” or “bring about” to reduce confusion.

Example: Change, “We wanted to effect change,” to, “We wanted to bring about change.”

Affect can also be a noun, although, like the verb form of effect, it is, thankfully, rare. Only those in the psychology field ever use this form to describe an emotion portrayed in a facial expression, e.g., “The boy had a flat affect.”

So as usual, the English language is very confusing, but now you have a few more grammar tricks up your sleeve.

Be sure to come back next week to learn more about sentence case vs. title case and check out last week’s post about starting a sentence with a conjunction. And as always, if you need help with content writing, give us a call at 888-521-3880.