These two words can confuse the best of writers. They look almost the same but they have different meanings. So what’s the difference between the two?
Affect is mostly used as a verb; it is used to show how something is being influenced.
Drinking alcohol affects my asthma. (My asthma is being influenced by the alcohol.)
How to remember: the a in affect could stand for active, as in, a doing word or verb.
Effect is mostly used as a noun; it is used to show a result.
Drinking alcohol has an effect on my asthma. (The effect is a result of the alcohol.)
How to remember: the e in effect could stand for existing, as in, a thing or noun.
There are some instances where affect and effect swap roles and are used in different ways to those shown above.
When used in a psychology context, affect can be used as a noun, meaning ‘the emotion a person attaches to a particular idea or set of ideas’.
When used in a formal context, effect can be used as a verb, meaning ‘bring about’.
So when in doubt, use the mnemonics as shown above earlier:
Affect = a for an active verb
Effect = e for an existing noun
Hopefully this will help keep your affects and effects straight, and have a good effect on your writing efforts, so your career is affected in a positive way.
Kristy Taylor is a syndicated freelance journalist with articles and short stories strewn across all forms of media. She has written and published numerous books, and is the executive editor of KT Publishing, which encompasses several web sites. For free listings of short story competitions visit http://www.shortstorycompetitions.com
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