Communication Skills

JS Tip 81: From the Writing Workshops: "Affect" and "Effect," Part Two

We’ve mentioned this before: We’re grateful for your response to the Tips. Most of your questions have been about language, so we’ll stay with that discussion.

Last week, we talked about the principal (main, primary) definitions for affect and effect.

Affect is a verb. An action word. It means “to influence, change, or impress.” “The outage affected (influenced, changed) the system.”

Effect is a noun. A thing. It means “result, consequence, or outcome.” “The effect (the result, the consequence) of the outage was that we lost our payroll data.”

The Secondary Definitions

Each word has a second definition, but the second definition is so narrow, so specialized, you don’t really need to worry.

Affect as a noun, a thing, means “facial appearance” or “expression.” Psychologists use the word to describe changes in attitude. “Connor’s affect (expression) never changed when he heard he’d won the lottery.”

Effect as a verb, an action word, means “to produce” or “to bring about.” “The Beatles effected (produced, brought about) a huge change in the music of the 1960s.”

What we don’t want you to do is to skip affect and effect altogether and use impact: “The outage impacted the system. The impact was that we lost our payroll data.” Arrrggghhh.

We’re grateful to Ryan Anderson of Zions Bank for beginning the discussion. This is fun stuff. Let us know your concerns, and we’ll try to address them.