Today’s grammar tip: “Affect” versus “effect.”

For all intents and purposes, the soft and squishy (i.e., not hard) rule is that “affect” should be used as a verb, and “effect” should be used as a noun. But let’s break it down a little further, shall we?

Affect: This means to influence or to change. (It also means to act in a way you don’t feel, such as “The comedian affected an air of seriousness”). You can use alliteration here and think of “affect” as “action” and, thus, a verb. In other words, to affect something is to cause a reaction. And that reaction is the effect!

Effect: This means the result. When you’re trying to decide which of the two to use, if you can replace it with “result,” or if you can add “a” or “the” before it, then you know you have a noun and should use “effect.” Think of the terms “side effects,” “sound effects,” and “cause and effect,” which are all nouns.

But! Sometimes (quite rarely in everyday speech) “affect” is a noun, and “effect” is a verb. For “affect,” the noun version is often used in psychology and refers to the mood someone appears to have (since we can never truly know what someone is feeling, just the mood they are projecting). Here’s an example: “She had a stoic affect through the whole staring contest.” So obviously she won. For “effect,” the verb means to bring about. You usually see this one with “change” or “solutions” (e.g., “the protesters want to effect change”). This is stronger and arguably more accurate than saying “affect change,” which refers to influencing the changes already happening.

The moral of the story is that I affect you, and you feel my effect.