Affect or Effect?

One word that drives me nuts is impact.  Call me hypersensitive, but every day I hear sentences like these:

How will this impact our bottom line?

The impact of her decision is going to be costly.

John’s speech impacted the audience so greatly that they gave him a standing ovation.  (Some would even dare to say John’s speech was impactful—but not around me.)

The only reason impact is so prevalent is that many people do not know the difference between affect and effect.  So they figure, “The hell with it” and use impact in all cases.  This default is in my Top 10 Everyday Verbal Annoyances.

AFFECT is a verb 99.9% percent of the time.*  Think of it as a verb 100% of the time:

How will this affect our bottom line?

John’s speech affected the audience so greatly…. 

Do you see the action in those two sentences?  You want the verb.  You can also think of the A in affect as an upside-down V, for verb.

EFFECT is a noun 99.9% of the time**, and again, go for 100%.  When you go to the movies, you see special effects.  Those effects are things, nouns.  Think of effect as referring to the end (or outcome, which is a noun).  If you need a noun, use effect. Whenever you write about a thing, use the E-word:

The effect of her decision is going to be costly.

* As for the other uses, affect can be a noun when it applies to a person’s facial expression.  Psychologists might refer to a patient’s “flat affect,” meaning that person has no expression on her face.

**  Effect is at rare times a verb and almost always is used in this manner:  Sandra’s actions will effect changes in her department.

I suggest you ignore the uses with asterisks and focus on the use of affect as a verb and effect as a noun.  Please lose impact except in rare cases.  Lose impactful permanently.  Thank you.



March 18, 2013 · 6:01 PM

2 responses to “Affect or Effect?

  1. Aw, this was a quite quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real work to generate a great article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and in no way look to obtain something done.


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