Effectively Using Affect

Do you know how long it took me to write that title? Too long. Why? Because in spite of my confidence with 95% of English grammar, I am absolutely INCAPABLE of dealing with the difference between Affect and Effect. I’ve looked it up approximately 1000 times and each time I think “yes. right. easy.” and then it comes time to put it into practice and I’m dead in the water. So this post has two purposes…

1) Seeking Help

Anyone got a nice easy, reliable way to tell these two pesky words apart? Grammar Girl has this to say, but somehow that doesn’t seem to stick well in my head in times of trouble!

2) Recording the Differences

Failing the above (in which case I’ll update this post, give you credit and sail off into the proverbial sunset happy), I feel like it might help to at least note the right usage here.

EFFECT (noun)

Usually when you want a noun, it’s Effect. The effects of something, in effect something and even sort of verby phrases like “come into effect” and “take effect”, because the word itself is still a noun.

AFFECT (verb)

Usually when you want a verb, it’s Affect. How will A affect B? A affected B in this way, etc.

So far, it ought to be so good. And Grammar Girl points out that if you just treated the words in this way, you’d be right 90% of the time and therefore can afford to just do that. Which you’d think I’d manage and get over myself. But I cannot bring myself to keep the bathwater of that last 10% in order to save the baby of the 90%, so I stumble through life using whichever feels right and usually getting it wrong. Lesson in life, I suspect. My problem is, there are exceptions and, I’m afraid, I need to know and deal with them too. Here they are:

EFFECT (verb)

Used as in: “The person effected a change”.

Now, reading and studying this I can see that this is subtly of different from affect (verb). Effected is more … active, Affected is more passive. But in the heat of the writing moment, I just find this completely flummoxing. Two verbs? Meaning roughly the same thing? ARGHHH…

AFFECT (noun)

 Affect (noun) is a term in psychology to mean the appearance of emotion eg She took the news with a flat affect. This one’s easier to ignore. Apparently we need it because we can’t know whether there’s an actual effect (noun) because we don’t know what the person is thinking. Or something. Anyway, I’ve looked this up in a couple of places and I think even I don’t feel the need to worry about it. By the way, “He affected a display of emotion” – to mean that someone put on a display that didn’t match their real feelings, which is probably linked to this, is still Affect (verb), just another meaning of it.

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Grammar Rules Simplified, Writing

2 responses to “Effectively Using Affect

  1. Been there, done those very things, Jen. I agree that I don’t want to experience that 10%, so I keep checking.

    janet

  2. I was told the easy way to remember the 90% of cases is, ‘affect has an effect on you’. Effect (verb), I seem to only ever see used in the past tense, as per your example. As for affect (noun) I trained as a psychologist and haven’t come across it outside the psychological literature.
    I have a similar problem with analogy and metaphor. I understand the difference whenever I check in the dictionary before committing myself, but I do always have to check.

Feedback feeds the muse. Join in the conversation here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s