Should I Use Affect or Effect?

There are words in English which are easily confused. This is mostly because English borrows from many different languages, primarily Latin and Greek, and uses predominantly Germanic-derived grammar rules.

But you didn’t come here for a linguistics lesson, did you?
Effect and affect. What the heck is the difference. Glad you asked. Actually, there is a rather important distinction between the two.

Affect is a verb meaning ‘to cause a change or response in/to a situation.’ Take a look at these examples:
• We affect the outcome of a decision with our contributions to a meeting.
• The CEO affected the mood of the meeting by his/her presence.
• The results of this survey will affect how we move forward.

Effect is a noun meaning ‘the change that is the result of an action or actions.’ Again, some examples:
• The effect of our contributions was to change the decisions made at the meeting.
• The CEO’s presence had the effect of dampening the mood of the meeting.
• The effect of the survey was to make us change our approach to obtaining customer leads.

As you have probably noticed, effect is almost always preceded with an article (“an” or “the”).

In the interest of completion, there is an instance in which effect is a verb. It has a very specific meaning and syntax, most often found in the expression, ‘effecting change,’ which can almost certainly be rewritten more clearly.

• We are effecting behavioual change company-wide with this new initiative / We have effected behavioural change company-wide with this new initiative.

Stale, meaningless jargon, really.

• This new initiative changes company-wide behaviour / This new initiative has changed company-wide behaviour.

Much better. Do you notice how the second set of sentences seems more direct and alive?

Simon Brown, B.A., B.Ed., TESL

I hope you enjoyed this post. Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me through LinkedIn or at I will get back to you as soon as possible. Your question may be my next post. Who knows?