One of the most common errors in English is to confuse the words “affect” and “effect”. These words have two completely different meanings. One is a verb while the other is a noun. If you mix them up, you will only confuse whomever you’re writing to.
The Difference Between Affect and Effect
“Affect”, with an “A”, means to influence. This covers 90 percent of the time you will ever use this word. However, occasionally, “affect” can mean something other than to influence. It can refer to how you act, and not how you feel. An example of this would be “Jim affected an air of superiority”.
Examples of Affect
The rain affected Sally’s hairdo…
Tom’s argument affected the audience…
The heat affected my concentration…
The noise all around us affected our hearing…
His hunger affected his performance…
This covers 90 percent of the time you will ever use this word. However, occasionally, “affect” can mean something other than to influence. It can refer to how you act, and not how you feel. An example of this would be “Jim affected an air of superiority”.
Most of the time, “affect” is a verb. However, “affect” can rarely be used as a noun. This is done when one person is talking about the way another person feels. For example, psychologists often use the term “affected” this way:
“Jim showed an angry affect.” or;
“She displayed a sad affect.”
In this example, “affect” describes the emotion. This makes sense, in a scientific sense, because the psychologist knows he cannot actually feel the same way as the person he is describing. The best the psychologist can do is notice how another person appears to be feeling based on perceptual evidence.
When to Use Effect
The word “effect” has a completely different meaning. “Effect” with an “e” refers to a result. Use “effect” when you want to describe an event or a result of some action.
Hitting the window with a hammer had the effect of breaking the glass.
The effect was shocking.
His words had an effect on the audience…
The loud music had a deafening effect.
“Effect” is often used as a noun, as opposed to a verb. Again, 90 percent of the time you use “effect,” it will be as a in. However, “effect” can also rarely be used as a verb.
The politician effected change with the new proposal…
In this example, “effect” is used to mean “to accomplish”. You can remember when to use “affect” vs “effect” by remembering a simple phrase: “a very easy noun”.
“A very” refers to “affect” as a verb, and clues you in to the fact that you should mostly use “affect” as a verb. “Easy noun” refers to “effect” as a noun and clues you in to the fact that you’ll be using “effect” mostly as a noun.