“Effect” and “affect” often get confused, likely because people pronounce them similarly (although they aren’t quite homophones). But the two words have different meanings, so you need to make sure you don’t confuse them. The most common definitions of each word are copied below:

Effect

Noun: (1) the result or outcome of an action or cause; (2) to bring something into operation or effect.

Affect

Verb: to influence or have an impact on.

The definitions of these words are, of course, much more complex than what you see above. I recommend checking the dictionary for the complete definitions of affect and effect so that you can better understand them.

How to Decide Whether to Use "Affect" vs "Effect"

When deciding whether to use “effect” or “affect”, I recommend that you first consider whether the word is being used to describe a thing (i.e. being used as a noun) or an action (i.e. being used as a verb).

If the word describes a thing, then the noun “effect” is probably the best word to use. If the word describes an action, then the verb “affect” is likely the right choice.

When to Use Effect

“Effect” is usually used as a noun to describe the consequences or outcome of a cause or process. Consider how “effect” is used in the following sentences:

  • The effects of the storm weren’t too bad.
  • The pollution had an effect on the local animals.
  • Rain could have a positive effect on this year’s crop.

Notice that “effect” is not the action word in these sentences; “effect” refers to the outcome of an action.

When to Use Affect

Affect is a verb that is usually used to describe the influencing or changing of something. Consider how “affect” is used in the following sentences:

  • The barking dog affected their demeanor.
  • We need to consider how high levels of rain could affect the local lake.
  • A city-wide power outage affects a lot of people.

Notice how the word “affect” is used in these sentences. “Affect” is used as the action word in these sentences.

If In Doubt...

If you still aren’t sure whether to use “affect” or “effect”, try using a synonym.

In most cases, you can use the word “impact” to replace “affect” and “effect”:

  • The news article I read had a significant effect impact on me.
  • I wish I hadn’t affected impacted him so much.
  • Jane’s fashion is affected impacted by the weather.
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