Today we’ll be talking about two commonly confused words, affect and effect. We understand that this might be a very basic overview but sometimes, seasoned editors can stare at their writing and second-guess themselves. Here, we’ll go over the basics so you can avoid the doubting.
Most of the Time
The short answer is that affect is usually a verb while effect is usually a noun. For example, we would say that the lighting technicians for a movie do a lot to affect the special effects.
In this sort of situation, effect means “results” or “the impression created,” while affect means “to influence.”
Additionally, when affect is acting as a verb, it can also mean “to pretend.” For example, “She affected cheerfulness, but in fact, she was quite angry.”
Some of the Time
However, there are a few situations when affect is a noun and effect is a verb; this second set of meanings can make figuring out which word to use a little confusing.
As a noun, affect is frequently used in psychological contexts and refers to a person’s emotional state or to the outward signs of that emotional state. For example, “The couple showed the ill affects that sometimes come with a long-distance relationship.”
Meanwhile, effect can be used as a verb to mean “to bring about.” This use of effect is often used in politics. For example, “Both candidates promised to effect change at the federal level.”
When in doubt, use affect as a verb and effect as a noun, and most of the time you’ll be right. However, if you want to be sure, then just refer to this Grammar Time post—or a good dictionary.