Are you affected by effects?

I used to have a boss who was never sure whether to write ‘effect’ or ‘affect’. Whenever he got to the word, he would ring me up for advice – and cheerfully admitted that he could never remember what I told him from one time to the next.

It is confusing, I know. And it’s made worse by the fact that each of them can be either a verb or a noun (though affect as a noun is pretty rare and a bit archaic). I tend to think of them in their verb forms first:

effect = to carry out, to execute, as in “my plan is to effect changes” (think of the initial ‘e’ in effect and the initial ‘e’ in execute.)

affect = to have an influence upon, as in “those changes will affect a lot of people“.

It does get a bit trickier though when effect is also a noun – as in “if I effect those changes, the effect will be to affect many people” .

Then, to make matters worse, there is an alternative meaning of the verb to affect, linked to the word ‘affectation’, as in “he affects a slight foreign accent “.

In the end, you just have to rely on your memory. Or, failing that, ring up a subordinate. You might find that effective.

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3 Responses to “Are you affected by effects?”


  1. 1 isaiah30v8 March 5, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I think I have been affected by your blog post

  2. 2 isaiah30v8 March 5, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    It must have been effective

  3. 3 johnchap March 6, 2008 at 7:43 am

    It’s the blog effect!


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