Q: When should I use affect or effect?

A: Kudos for knowing there is a difference! When speaking, we tend to pronounce them the same way (which comes in handy when you don’t know which is correct). When writing, we have to know which is correct because spell-checker won’t flag incorrect usage.

Homer Simpson passed out in his underwear at work while Mr. Burns looks on disapprovingly: affect or effect?

Mr. Burns is unconcerned about the negative effects of his nuclear power plant on the environment. Homer Simpson’s inherent laziness affects his ability to get ahead in his career.

Usually, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. We’ve called in some consultants from our Springfield office to help us explain.

To affect something is to have an impact or influence upon that thing: e.g. Homer Simpson’s inherent laziness affects his ability to get ahead in his career.

Sometimes the verb affect means to pretend: e.g. Krusty affects an air of joviality, though he is a very sad clown at heart.

Effects are the results of an action or a condition: e.g. the effects of drinking too many Flaming Moes include lack of inhibition, slurring of speech, fits of giggles and loss of consciousness.

Got it? Good. But affect isn’t always a verb and effect isn’t always a noun. Doh!

Sometimes, affect is a noun and effect is a verb. The noun affect is a psychological term used to describe the mood a person is expressing: e.g. if Marge is smiling warmly and laughing, she has a happy affect. Effect can be used as a verb that means taking action to bring something about, usually in the phrase “effect change:” e.g. Lisa works to effect positive change in Springfield.

So, unless you’re discussing expression of mood or bringing about a change, affect is the verb and effect is the noun.

Need help writing or editing for your website or blog? Call Kim Landry at 484-829-0021 or email [email protected].

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