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Grammar Mishaps: Effect vs. Affect

Updated on May 02, 2012

Affect, Effect: Which to Use?

These two words can be confusing, but they are most easily (and fairly accurately) described as:

Effect is usually a noun. You can measure an effect. ‘Cause and effect’ refers to the effect caused by the cause.

Affect is usually a verb.

If you want to affect the election results, you better vote. Your vote will have an effect on the outcome, some people say.

There are some exceptions, mostly to confuse you. I advise to stay away from these, but if you really want to know:

Affect can be used as a noun. Unless you’re in for a painful evening investigating the details, you don’t want to hear any more about this. If you insist, I'll get you started: 'Affect' can be used as the noun caused or created by the action of 'affecting' (verb).

Effect can be used as a verb, though this is called a transitive verb in this usage, when it is really meant to be used as “to affect” (hence the transitive label.)

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