The appropriate use of affect and effect

by Arushi Gupta
The appropriate use of affect and effect

It takes researchers a lot of time, effort, and resources to conduct their research and then produce a compelling manuscript. However, the presence of grammatical errors in your article can impact the overall quality of your research article and can even be seen as a sign of negligence by the author.1 With all the months of hard work you’ve put in, you wouldn’t want your manuscript relegated to the desk rejection pile due to errors such as the incorrect use of affect and effect, would you?

Writing in English, especially if it isn’t your native language, can make your manuscript preparation and publication journey more difficult. There are several similar sounding words, with some word pairs being particularly confusing even for those who are fluent in English. One such pair of words is affect and effect, which when used interchangeably can change the intended meaning. In this article, we delve into the difference between affect and effect and learn the correct use of affect and effect.

Difference between affect and effect

Affect is a verb, or an action, that means ‘to impact or cause change’ while effect is a noun that refers to a result or outcome.2 So, for instance, if X affects Y, X is producing an effect on Y. Or, Y is being affected by or experiencing the effect of X’s action. Confused? Let’s simplify this further.

Imagine a scenario where Paula (X) pushes Graham (Y) into a pool. Paula affects what happens to Graham. Graham falling into the pool is the effect of Paula’s action. Since Paula performed an action, you will be using the verb affect in this case. Since Graham bore the result of the action, you will use the noun effect.

The two examples below will make it even clearer:

  • The effect of global warming is that glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.
  • Global warming will adversely affect the glaciers and the sea levels.

When do you use affect and effect?

Whenever you’re asking yourself ‘what is the difference between affect and effect?’ simply try to understand if you want to produce a change or show the result of something.

When to use affect

1. Use affect when you intend to show action. For example:

  • The wild storm affected citizens within fifty miles of the town.
  • Climate change has been affecting the planet since years.

 2. Use affect when you intend to produce a mental effect or move someone’s emotions. For example:

  • Max was sobbing quietly in the corner, and everybody in the room was affected by the piteous cries.
  • Good music affects her mood drastically.

3. Use affect when you intend to show pretence. For example:

  • Despite the panic in the hospital, Lucas affected a calm demeanor.
  • Stella affected a smile even though she was not feeling at ease.

When to use effect

Use effect when you want to show the result or the change brought on by a cause or an event. 

  • Her years of writing practice had the effect of turning her into an esteemed writer.
  • You must keep in mind that X-rays in CAT Scans have a negative effect on the human body due to repeated exposure.

Important exceptions in the use of affect and effect

While the most common use of affect and effect is fairly clear, there are a few important exceptions you should also know about.  

Effect as a Verb

When used as a verb, effect means to bring about, execute, produce, or accomplish something. For example: 

  • The most common way to effect change in society is to work at the grassroots level. Here to effect change means to bring about the effect of change.
  • Not only does smoking cause cancer, it has a negative effect on overall health.

Affect as a Noun

When used as a noun, affect refers to the display of one’s emotions or a specific emotional response. In this case, the word takes on a different pronunciation and the emphasis is on the first syllable (AFF-ect).

For example:

  • His facial affect displayed his inner torment.
  • The patient displayed a flat affectthroughout the tooth extraction process.

In conclusion

The appropriate use of affect and effect must be clear from the examples above. Here are some simple ways to help you remember the concept better.

  • A(ffect) = Action
  • E(ffect) = End result.

Another trick to knowing how to use affect and effect is remembering the word RAVEN:3

R = Remember

A = Affect is a

V = Verb

E = Effect is a

N = Noun

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