By Jacob Maslow — Branded Content
Affect and effect are two words that are often used interchangeably, but there is actually a big difference between the two. “Affect” is a verb meaning to influence or produce a change in something, while “effect” is a noun meaning the result of an action. In other words, you can affect something, but the effect is what happens as a result of that. Clear as mud, right? The reality is, while each word has a distinct meaning they are close enough in function that it’s no surprise they get confused in our daily speech so much. While there are many ways to confuse these two, it’s just as easy to do a little research and solidify the difference in your brain from here forward! Let’s take a closer look at affect vs effect and to try to clear up any confusion about the two words.
In general, the word affect is used as a verb and effect is used as a noun. An affect is something that is enacted upon a person, thing or circumstance. The affect then causes an effect, which is an emotional response or resulting situation from the verb. However, each word has three Webster Dictionary definitions. Affect can be used as a verb, transitive verb and in some cases a noun. Effect can also be used as a transitive verb and a noun. Let’s learn how each can be used in these contexts.
Both Can be Used as a Verb
One of the biggest reasons that these two terms can get confused is their similar usage. In most cases, affect is a verb that describes the action in a sentence. However, effect can also be used as a verb to describe an action that causes a result. For example, “The new governor can effect change in their district.” In this case, the word effect is being used in place of words like ‘achieve’ or ‘enact.’ If we were to use affect in the same sentence, it might look something like this, “The new governor’s policies affected change across their district.” The second example describes what happened because of the policy change, affecting their district as a whole.
Both Can be Used as a Noun
Effect is most commonly used as a noun to describe the result of an affected action. It can also be used to describe the perception of something. For example, “The lighting had a spooky effect on the room.” In this case, the spooky effect becomes the noun influencing the energy of the room. Affect can be used as a noun in this context as well, to describe the state of being of a person, place or thing. For example, “The spooky lighting will affect everyone in the room.” In this case, the lighting will influence the attitude of the individuals in the room. It’s less common for affect to be used in this context, and most of the time when we’re talking about the result of an action, effect is the correct term to use.
Another reason that people tend to confuse these words is because of incorrect pronunciation. Usually, people pronounce these words the same way. It makes sense, because they do sound similar even when pronounced correctly! The trick to getting this right is making sure that you stress the long vowel sounds at the beginning of each word. Affect as a hard ‘ah’ sound at the beginning, and effect has a long ‘ee’ sound at the beginning. With so many different dialects in English speaking communities, this can be a tricky thing to get a hang of! But with a little practice, you’ll be able to clearly distinguish which word you’re meaning to say in your speech, which will help you determine which term is correct in your writing as well.
In general, most people tend to use effect when they mean affect. This is the most common way to confuse the two terms. To recap, each can be used as a transitive verb and a noun, but affect is more commonly a verb and effect more commonly a noun. Affect is an action or cause, and an effect is the result of an action or cause. Usually, effect describes an emotional, psychological or situational change caused by a particular action. While each can be used as a noun or verb, these are the most common usages of the terms. Additionally, people commonly mispronounce these words to sound the same. While they sound similar, affect has a hard ‘a’ sound at the beginning while effect has a hard ‘ee’ sound. Making a conscious effort to change your pronunciation will do wonders to help you understand the usage and difference between the two words. If you’re still confused, do some research using the amazing online tools available for word counting and document editing!
Photo Courtesy // Jacob Maslow