Monday, October 25, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: Affect or Effect?

Affect or effect? This is a common question and common mistake. Grammar Girl, a great reference website, offers this cartoon as a visualization of the difference between the two words. A good thing to keep in mind is that most of the time, you use affect as a verb and effect as a noun.
Affect means to influence, as illustrated in the example above. It can also be used to mean that a person is acting in a way they don't feel, or are putting on airs. Therefore you can write things like: "The arrow affected the aardvark" or "He affected an air of superiority."
Effect has a lot of varied meanings, but in the case of determining when to use it, "a result" is a useful way of looking at it. Therefore, you can use effect in sentences like: "The effect was unsettling" or "The special effects were ahead of their time."
There are other rare instances in which affect and effect are in reversed roles, but for general cases, the above examples are good rules to go by.

1 comment:

  1. A while back, XKCD (a tech/geek/etc webcomic) had a comment about just this: