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Word Blunders: Effect or Affect?

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The battle for grammatically correct content seems to be never ending. Words we use in every day conversations stump us when we type them out for the screen.

The effect of these common blunders affect the character of our message.

Words that carry the same linguistic properties can stump even the most seasoned professional. In some instances, the meanings are quite close. Affect and effect are a perfect example, since their meanings are intertwined.

Affect: This word means to have an effect on something. Yes, really. No wonder we have trouble keeping these two straight. However, I can give you some help.

Affect can be used as a noun or a verb, but it usually involves emotion or some sort of change.

She was deeply affected by his eloquent poem.”

In the context of that sentence, affect clearly refers to an emotional stir. Affect can also refer to an influence or impact.

Roses affect her allergies.”

In this context, affect is implying the influence that the roses will have to someone with an allergy to them.

Effect: This word is most frequently describing a consequence. It’s the end result of some other action.

His reckless actions at the track had a big effect on his family.”

In the above example, it’s easy to see that effect is not referring to emotion, but the consequence of the deed.

The proposed changes are scheduled to take effect next month.”

In this case, effect is used to describe the anticipated result and its potential occurrence. Again, note the lack of emotional context. Effect usually has a sense of being solid or absolute, more factual than emotional.

Memory Aids

It’s all good and well to read and understand how each word is used. But when you’re on the spot, it can be tough to remember which one you need. Here’s a little help.

Affect = Affection. Affect is most commonly used in terms of emotion and influence. Since affection is an emotion, it’s a good word association to help clear your thoughts and bring you to the correct spelling.

Effect = End Result. An effect is usually something final. The end result or anticipated end result. When you are looking at your use of the word in writing, think about “special effects” used in movies to help you remember the spelling. A special effect is used to create a final onscreen result.

If all else fails…

If you still find yourself stuck for which word to use, by all means, use a synonym.

She was deeply moved by his eloquent poem.”

Roses aggravate her allergies.”

His reckless actions at the track had a big impact on his family.”

The proposed changes are scheduled to take place next month.”

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