Affect Or Effect: How To Get The Right Word Every Time

Does the difference between homophones affect your flow of thought?

Wait. 

Is “effect” the correct word to use in the above sentence or not?

Well, the affect vs effect confusion tricks many writers and business professionals. In this article, you’ll learn how to use the correct version of these words every single time. How about we explore how the confusion arises in the first place?

Recommended reading: How To Use: Your vs You’re

Table of Contents

Roots Of The Words Affect And Effect

Not surprisingly, both of these words share similar sounding linguistic ancestors.

Affect comes from the Latin verb afficere meaning “to do something to, to have an influence on.” Effect, on the other hand, is derived from the Latin verb efficere, meaning, “to make, carry out.”

Affect — “to do something to, to have an influence on.”

Effect — “to make, carry out.”

Knowing the meaning of these two nouns/verbs helps, but it isn’t enough. It is still easy to get confused and make a silly mistake by using the wrong word in a sentence. Here’s a rule of thumb that will help you out most times.

Rule Of Thumb

Here’s a general guideline when you’re confused whether a sentence calls for using effect or affect:

Most times affect is a verb, while effect is a noun.

Example of “affect”: The most affected area from the tornado was provided help.

See how “affect” is implying action (therefore it’s a verb)?

Here are two more headlines from BBC using the word “affect.” The first one:

A BBC article on how the COVID 19 lockdown affect babies with the image of a sleeping baby on the side

And here’s the second example:

On the other hand, effect is mostly used as a noun. 

Example of “effect”: “The effect of the tornado was devastating.”

Here is another BBC headline using effect:

Once you get that down, the next section shares simple tricks to memorize this rule of thumb.

Three Simple Tricks To Discern Affect Or Effect Usage… 

Want to nail the correct spelling every single time? Then choose one of the tricks below that work best for you and never misspell affect as effect again.

Trick 1: Poe’s RAVEN

Before finalizing the title of the poem “The Raven“, Edgar Allan Poe considered other talking birds – maybe a parrot, or an owl. But, since raven, a bird of ill-omen, is more consistent with the overall tone of the poem, Poe chose raven. Thank God for that. Because now we can remember Poe and the difference between affect and effect using the same word: Raven.

R = Remember
A = Affect is
V = a Verb
E = Effect is
N = a Noun

Easy peasy. 

There’s an even shorter trick though that you probably learned in school.

Trick 2: A For Action

Forget your ABCs for a second. Now, just remember “affect” starts with an “A.” And “A” also stands for Action, which means affect is a verb.

Here’s an excerpt from a BBC News article on Brexit. Is affect being used correctly below?

BBc News article on Brexit with the image of someone shopping for produce

Let’s check the sentence:

How could you be ___ if the UK leaves the EU?

Isn’t it apparent that an action is happening?

“A” for action and “A” for “affect.” So “affect” is the correct word for this sentence.

Trick 3: Can I Substitute It With Another Verb?

If you can replace affect with another verb (with a similar meaning), then you’re using the right word.

Example: The trauma affected her deeply. 

  • The trauma affected her deeply.

You could also write the sentence as:

  • The trauma damaged her deeply.

Both sentences have similar meanings, so you’ve used the right word above.

Let’s try that again, shall we?

  • His statements had a surprising affect on the audience.

Can you think of another verb that can substitute the word “affect?”

None, right?

Hence, the wrong word is used.

The correct sentence would actually be:

  • His statements had a surprising effect on the audience.

In the majority of cases, you’ll find these words being used as these specific parts of speech. In the next section, I’ll show you some exceptions.

Recommended reading: Who Or Whom: How To Get It Right Every Time

Exceptions To The Affect v/s Effect Rule

In some cases, affect can be used as a noun, and effect can be used as a verb. 

Why?

So:

A single word can be applied to different parts of speech. 

Let me share a few examples: 

He wanted to effect a change in the entertainment industry.

Effect is used as a VERB.

Patients of this disorder often experience flat affect.

Affect is used as a NOUN. 

Side Note: Affect as a noun is largely used in Clinical Psychology settings where it means that the patients can have a sour mood. 

Affect As An Adjective 

Lastly, affect can go beyond verbs and nouns. In that sense it would mean someone who is pretentious or fake for the sake of impressing someone (or a group of people).

He had an affected abstraction in his actions.

Here, someone is acting affected. While being in the verb form, someone is affected.

Simple enough if you remember it this way, right?

Conclusion

Most times, you’d be good to go if you remember that affect is a verb and effect is a noun. Here’s a short video by BBC Learning English Youtube to help you remember the differences we’ve learned.

There are three handy tricks to remember this difference in parts of speech:

1. Poe’s RAVEN

2. A for Action, A for Affect 

3. Can I substitute it for another verb?

In rare cases, affect can be used as a noun, and effect can be used as a verb. Affect can also be used as an adjective where it is synonymous with artificial for the sake of impressing. However, these occasions are infrequent.

Up next, I recommend you read some writing tips to polish your craft.

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I'm a staff writer at Elite Content Marketer and a closet poet. When not whipping up high-quality SaaS content, I'm writing bookish essays on my website, rochizalani.com, and chatting with my newsletter community. She believes there’s nothing that can’t be cured by some fresh poetry and a F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode.