60-second fix: affect and effect

If you mix up your words, it can affect a reader’s opinion of you – and that, in turn, can have a detrimental effect on your business. So here’s how to get affect and effect straight, writes Cathy Relf.

Almost always, the following will apply:

effect is a noun and means ‘a result or a consequence’ or the way one thing acts upon another

affect is a verb and means ‘to have an effect on’

So you would write:

‘The rise in oil price will have an effect on transport costs.’

‘One of the effects of the rise in oil price will be to increase transport costs.’

‘The rise in oil price will affect transport costs.’

Careful readers may have noted that we said this was ‘almost always’ true – and ain’t that always the case with English? There are indeed exceptions to the rule.

effect can also be a verb, meaning ‘to cause to occur, to bring about, to accomplish’.

affect can also mean ‘to put on the appearance of’, as in ‘he affected anger’.

And, even more obscurely, in psychiatry, affect can also be used as a noun, as in ‘she exhibited a flat affect’.

However, most of the time, you can disregard these meanings and stick with the ‘effect is a noun and affect is a verb’ rule.

If you’re a mnemonic-y kind of person, you may find ‘raven’ helps you remember the distinction:

Remember
Affect
Verb
Effect
Noun.

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