effect and affect

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Okay, we all know the difference between Affect and Effect.

And, in case we didn't, Affect is a verb meaning, "to act on; produce an effect," as in,

The haunting melody affected me.
Effect is a noun meaning, "something produced by agency or cause; result; consequence," as in,
The haunting melody created a chilling effect.
But here's where it gets really messed up: Effect can also be a verb.
–verb (used with object)
10. to produce as an effect; bring about; accomplish; make happen: The new machines finally effected the transition to computerized accounting last spring.
As if the similar spellings weren't enough, both verbs, Effect and Affect, are also used with objects, making them even more difficult to distinguish.

The way we do it is swap the verb Effect with Create. So say we weren't sure whether Affect or Effect was the right word in our first example,
The haunting melody affected me.
Affect looks right, but just to be sure, let's try Effect:
The haunting melody effected me.
Looks about the same--but now swap Effected with Created:
The haunting melody created me.
Since the sentence looks mongoloid, Affect is clearly the proper word.

Let's try it with the second example:
The haunting melody created a chilling effect.
The swap can work both ways when there's an object, so we get
The haunting melody effected a chilling effect.
Which sounds pretty stupid, too.

And if that nonsense isn't enough, Affect can also be a noun:
4. Psychology. feeling or emotion.
We suggest you just ignore anyone who uses it that way.