E is for Effect

If you ask around, I think you’ll find that most people have at least one word that they’re inclined to look up in the dictionary every time they need to use it. For whatever reason, some words just don’t seem to stick in the old noggin, even if their meaning and spelling is really not difficult. I have two of those words: effect and affect.

Whenever I have to decide which one of them to use, I send the request for clarification of their meanings to my brain for processing. Ker-chug, ker-chug, ker-chug – you can practically hear it, like that noise your computer makes when the hard drive is running low on space and it seems to take forever to pull up what you want. Finally my mind spits out the correct word and, just my luck, there are dead pixels in my brain’s monitor right where the first letter should be, so that the answer comes up looking like this

which is not at all helpful because I don’t have any trouble with the other letters in either word.

For anyone else who finds the difference between effect and affect hard to remember, here is the most basic difference between the two words.

Most of the time affect is a verb. It generally means “to influence” or “to change”.

I am adversely affected by snowy weather.

Most of the time effect is a noun. It generally means “a result or consequence”.

The snow had a dangerous effect on the roads.

The information I find most helpful is that effect is used whenever any of these words precede it: a, an, any, the, take, into, no.  These words may be separated from effect by an adjective.

For a more detailed description of the uses of effect and affect, and to try a practice quiz, go to this site:


Since my brain monitor cannot be repaired or replaced, I suspect that I’ll be looking up effect occasionally for the rest of my days. And that’s okay, because sometimes it’s best just to admit that you’re not sure and consult an expert; that’s what dictionaries are for.



Filed under Grammar by the Letter

6 responses to “E is for Effect

  1. Love this post because ffect is one of my stumbling blocks! My usual strategy is to write my sentence and send it off to whoever is on line at the moment for a second opinion!

    • My strategy is to try and avoid using either word.

      • I’m sorry, but can’t resist commenting on this (in good humour, of course!). 😉 “Try and” is a pet peeve of mine – by saying “I will try and do something”, you’re basically indicating that you’re guaranteed to succeed at your attempt. So why bother mentioning the try part? I feel it should be “I will try to do something”, or just simply “I will do something”.

      • Oops, sorry. It should be try “to”, not try “and” – I knew that.

  2. I don’t have trouble with a/effect, fortunately. The ones that really get me are lay/lie (“I want to go lay/lie down for a bit”) and lead/led (“He was lead/led into the house.”) Further/farther gives me trouble, too. And I can never, ever get accomModate right on the first type-out, always forgetting that second M.

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