Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

Affect vs. effect confusion? Nevermore.

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.

Practice Sentences

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.)

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Hulk We are back to my Hulk theme this week! As mentioned in my earlier post, the Hulk movie was great, but the “data is” grammar mistake pulled me out of the movie.

I wonder whether someone on the Hulk team might have intentionally made “data” singular because more people might have been distracted by the correct conjugation (“data are”) than the incorrect conjugation (“data is”).

I have applied to many jobs in which the job titles were incorrectly capitalized in the announcement, and I have seen many students who were faced with the same situation. (For the record, do not capitalize a job title unless it appears immediately before someone’s name without a comma.)

When you know what is correct, but you don’t think your audience knows the correct form, what do you do?

Readers, should applicants mimic job announcement capitalization errors? Also, feel free to share your stories about deciding whether to do what is technically correct or whether to do what your audience thinks is correct.

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Incredible Hulk

(Yes, I know, it should be “smashes,” but the title is a comic book tribute.)

My fiance and I enjoy superhero movies, so we went to see The Incredible Hulk on the big screen. I recommend the movie — it captivated my attention. However, a repeated grammar error kept pulling me out of the movie. In academic terms, I experienced “communication noise” because it interfered with what I wanted to hear (in this case, what Bruce Banner was saying).

I wanted to follow what was happening in the lab scene, but all I could think was, “Data is? Data is? I can’t believe the scientist keeps saying ‘data is.'”

“Data,” like “media,” is a plural word. The error tore me out of the movie, and it took serious mental effort to shut down my inner dialog.

It’s funny too because I think back to teaching “data are” in my Public Relations Writing class at Maryland, and my students would jovially tease me about this finer point and playfully challenge me to come up with a sentence in which I would use a verb after the word “data.” Well, here it is on the big screen!

Sneak peak: Next week (not next post because I actually have two more Hulk public relations topics), I’ll tell you about the punctuation challenge I took on with my Advanced Public Relations Writing class here in Oregon. It involves Wham!, the band.

Readers, what examples of communication noise have you experienced? Here is another one that I experienced recently. I went to a restaurant, and the server, probably 10 years younger than I, called me “sweetie.” I heard nothing else she said.

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