This morning, a fellow writer and good friend of this blog, Kathleen M. Rodgers, emailed me the following:
Can you post some helpful tips (simple rules) on the proper usage of “effect” and “affect” in a future writing tip on your blog? I swear, just when I think I get them both figured out, I read an article in a magazine, newspaper or FB post and I’m left even more confused. I think both words are misused a lot, even in well-known publications. Even though I’ve looked them up, I still am sometimes not sure which word to use when, and so I go out of my way to avoid them.
Indeed, “effect” and “affect” are misused all the time, but I learned a simple rule way back that helps me keep the two straight. Basically, when using the word in verb form, it’s “affect” with an “a.” That’s it. That’s all you need to know. So when you’re writing, ask yourself: Is this a noun or a verb? And the answer will give you the correct spelling. Let’s do a quiz: In each of the following sentences, is it “effects” or “affects”?
1. The visual __________ were amazing in that movie!
2. Love __________ everyone in different ways.
Well, in the first sentence, we’re talking noun, right? Modified by “visual,” right? So the answer must be “effects.” In the second example, we’re looking for a verb, so the answer is “affects.” Simple, right? Of course, there’s a tiny glitch in the rule. (The English language is trippy that way.) There are rare uses of the word in which “effect” can be used as a verb, and “affect” can be used as a noun. Grammar Girl explains it a lot better than I can here — and she also offers a cute little cartoon and a few mnemonics if my explanation regarding the general use of “effect” and “affect” doesn’t do the trick for you. :)