Grammar…Why Did it Have to be Grammar — Affect vs Effect

This is one of my most favorites, and by favorites, I mean one I hate a lot. While I am not a scholar of the English language (I wish I were, you know how much I could make editing other people’s writing?), I do consider myself better that most people in the world. To that effect (see what I did there), this issue throws me for quite the loop. You can memorize the definitions all you want, most people will trip over this one and land head first in the land of bad grammar.


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So, my goal here today is to discuss the differences and try to create a shortcut that should work most of the time. If anyone figures out a shortcut that works 100% of the time, I’m all ears.

The key problem here is that both words in essence is “Influence” of something. Worse yet, Microsoft Word itself is confused on which word you should use, often giving you the wrong advice.

To begin, lets look at etymology, a fancy way of saying the origins of words:

Affect: from Latin afficere – to do something to, act on
Effect: from Latin efficere – to bring about

Confused yet? It’s OK if you are. As long as this article is, did you expect this to clear everything up? Now that we are done with the history lesson, let’s look at dictionary definitions (dictionary.com).

Affect
v.
1.
to act on; produce an effect or change in: Cold weather affected the crops.
2.
to impress the mind or move the feelings of: The music affected him deeply.
3.
(of pain, disease, etc.) to attack or lay hold of.

synonyms
1.
influence, sway; modify, alter
2.
touch, stir

effect
1.
something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence: Exposure to the sun had the effect of toughening his skin.
2.
power to produce results; efficacy; force; validity; influence: His protest had no effect.
3.
the state of being operative or functional; operation or execution; accomplishment or fulfillment: to bring a plan into effect.
4.
meaning or sense; purpose or intention: She disapproved of the proposal and wrote to that effect.

synonyms
1. outcome, issue. Effect, consequence

Now, there are actually more definitions than this. But it goes into obscure usage that you will likely not use for your writing. By including it, I will confuse you further than you already are. Now if you didn’t read the above thing, because who likes reading the dictionary, let me sum up for you: Affect is a Verb, Effect is a Noun. There seems to be an acronym to this effect, RAVEN (Remember, Affect Verb, Effect Noun). Cute for whoever came up with that.

Now it is time we simplify this so you don’t run to your dictionary every time. Teachers have often used: affecting something causes an effect to it. I find that to be little help and below is something you can try doing with your writing. Might seem cumbersome at first, but after you use this more and more, you will find you need it less and less.

Check 1: Is the sentence waiting for the result of something (effect)What effect did the test have on the class?

Check 2: Is the word before the word one of these: an, and, any, into, on, take, the
(effect)

Check 3: Are you trying to describe something that caused or brought about? (effect)(think cause and effect)
Marty McFly effected the timeline when he traveled in the past.

Check 4: If you can change the word to modify (or have) and it still mostly makes sense
I knew that my opinion would affect her choice, so I deliberately withheld it
I knew that my opinion would modify her choice, so I deliberately withheld it

She tried to affect an air of nonchalance
She tried to have an air of nonchalance

WARNING: Doing this may change the meaning of the sentence. That’s OK. As long as it still makes sense to a degree. Also change the tense of words as well, if it is affected, then used modified or had.

Check 5: If you are describing how to influence a verb rather than causing it (affect)
The weather will affect the town.

By Check 5, you should have an idea of which one you should use. Now, there are exceptions and this is not 100% right. To make it 100% right, would end up causing more confusion to the whole thing. That being said, even if you get it wrong, you should be having someone good at grammar double checking your work anyways.

Be sure to use this up above and let me know what you think.

Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-madness-worldbuilding-continue

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