Posted by: episystechpubs | June 2, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Those Problem Children – Affect and Effect

Today we’re revisiting one of the top requests we get here in our little corner. Readers cry, “Please explain affect and effect!” It can be tricky because both are verbs and both are nouns. Let’s see if this explanation from the University of Kansas can help. It includes examples and some helpful hints, though I cut a few items out and reformatted it for easier reading. Good luck! (For the original article, click here.)

Affect as a verb. (The norm) To have an influence on; to impress or to move; to produce a change in something or someone.

Example: His study was intended to show how alcohol affects reaction time.

Effect as a noun. (Common usage) Something brought about; a result.

Example: They discussed the effect of the law on children.

Effect as a noun. (Common usage) The way one thing acts upon another.

Example: The effect of the law has been to increase the use of alcohol.

Effect as a verb. (Not common, but acceptable in rare cases.) To produce a result; to cause something to occur; to bring about an outcome.

Example: Smith said the cutbacks were designed to effect basic economies for the company.

While correct in this case, is it really clear to all readers? A better alternative:

· Smith said the cutbacks were designed to implement (make happen) basic economies for the company.

· Smith said the cutbacks were designed to bring about (produce a result) basic economies for the company.

Affect as a noun. Forget it; you’re in journalism, not psychiatry (though you might wind up in therapy). Affect as a noun means an emotional state as contrasted to a cognition.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Affect and Effect

1. Determine if the usage calls for a verb or a noun.

2. If a verb is needed, 95 percent of the time or more the word you want is affect. It means to change or to alter.

· The weather affects our moods.

· Nutrition affects health.

· The seasons affect trees and flowers.

· The quality of your work affects your grade.

3. The occasional need for effect as a verb arises when the narrow meaning “to cause or to bring about” is appropriate. These rare occasions often occur in some form of the expression “to effect a change” or, in police jargon, “to effect an arrest” (to cause or make an arrest happen). Nevertheless, it’s still best to avoid, particularly in the last example because it’s simply police jargon, and it’s good to avoid jargon.

4. When a noun is required, the word is almost always effect. This means “a result.”

· The effect of diligent study habits is better learning.

· The effect of making the correct choice is a better grade.

5. Affect can be a noun, but its use is almost entirely reserved for psychological jargon. You could have a long career as a writer and editor and never encounter the need for the noun affect.

6. So be ready to make almost all verbs affect.

7. And be ready to make virtually all nouns effect.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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