JS Tip 80: From the Writing Workshops: "Affect" and "Effect"

We mentioned this last week: We’re grateful for your responses to the Tips. You’re asking questions, and we’re researching the answers. If you’ve asked a question, we’ll get back to you either in a one-on-one e-mail or in a Tip. Most of your questions have been about language; we’ll stay with that topic. Thank you.

We have some bad news and some good news about affect and effect.

The bad news is that the words have two definitions each. (No wonder it’s confusing.)

The good news is that the second definition of each word is so specialized, so narrow, you can (almost) ignore it.

Let’s talk about the first definition.


Affect is a verb. An action word. It means “to influence, change, or impress.”

How might you best remember it? Think of the a in affect as standing for action.

For example—

The pay raise affected (influenced, touched) everyone in the company. Everyone bought BMWs.

The blast affected (influenced, touched) the entire block. It blew out all the glass.


Effect is a noun. A thing. It means “result, consequence, or outcome.”

How might you best remember it? Think of “The effect.” The ending e in the links to the beginning e in effect.

For example—

The effect (result, consequence) of the pay raise was unprecedented. Everyone bought BMWs.

The effect (result, consequence) of the blast was catastrophic. It blew out all the glass.

Next week, we’ll continue the discussion and explore the second, specialized, narrow definitions. Hey. We love this stuff.