Learning when to use “affect” and when to use “effect” can be a challenge, so here are some shortcuts that will get you through nearly all of the instances you encounter.
1. RAVEN: Remember, affect is a verb and effect is a noun (most of the time).
Example: The storm will affect attendance.
Look for the verb in the sentence. If the verb is affect, spell it with an “a” (in most cases).
2. Spot the following phrases and use an “e”:
- Have an effect on
- The effect of
- Go into effect, take effect
If you see these words or if you could fit them into the sentence without disrupting the sentence flow, use “effect,” as pointed out this week by Shannon Brophy, one of my students. The Snarky Student’s Guide to Grammar also describes this point and has other grammar posts worth exploring.
“Effect” is used with “effect on,” “effect of,” and “goes into effect” because “effect” refers to a consequence or result, whereas “affect” means “to influence.” (See Grammar Girl for more discussion about the definitions.)
Example: The storm will have an effect on attendance.
The next example shows that if you can fill in “on” or “of” after the word, you still use “effect.”
Example: The storm will have an effect [on attendance].
Example: The effect of the storm is unknown.
Example: The weather policy will take effect this week.
1. “Effect” can be used as a verb to refer to “bringing about” or “accomplishing,” as described by Purdue’s Online Writing Lab and Vocabulary.com. Nevertheless, it’s a clumsy use of “effect” that you should avoid anyway.
Acceptable: The agency will attempt to effect change through its weather policy.
Better: The agency will attempt to improve its predictions through its weather policy.
2. “Affect” can be used as a noun to refer to emotion. When you see this use of the word, it’s likely an academic setting, a psychology context or both.
For example, when I studied at the University of Maryland, I worked with Monique Mitchell Turner (now at Mpact Communications), who studied the role of affect (emotion) on persuasion. Her line of research can be used to provide insight into whether PSAs are more effective during comedy programming or during drama programming.
1. The bleak December had an (affect/effect) on Edgar Allan Poe.
2. The rapping at the chamber door (affected/effected) him.
3. The silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain (affected/effected) him.
4. The (affect/effect) of the raven was maddening.
5. The policy to keep the shutters closed takes (affect/effect) tomorrow.
1. effect (See “effect on,” rule No. 2.)
2. affected (Remember “affect” is nearly always a verb.)
3. affected (Remember “affect” is nearly always a verb.)
4. effect (See “the effect of,” rule No. 2.)
5. effect (See “takes effect,” rule No. 2.)