Short and Sweet: Grammar Cake Pops – Affect vs. Effect
For the next few columns, I’m planning to keep things short and sweet by looking at very specific grammar issues. By keeping the focus on one issue at a time, it should be easier to remember. Think of them as bite-sized grammar treats! The cake pop of the grammar world!
Let’s start with at “affect” vs. “effect.” Many people use these worlds interchangeably, rather than correctly.
So what do they mean? By definition, you “affect,” or act on something, and something that you do causes an “effect.” In other words, “affect” is a verb, and “effect” is a noun. Or think of it this way: “affect” is something you DO, while “effect” is something that IS.
EXAMPLE: Susan wondered if David’s compliments were starting to affect her self-confidence. (The compliments are doing something, acting on, Susan’s self-confidence.)
EXAMPLE: Bob waited to see if his joke would have the same effect that it did the last time he told it. (The verb is “has,” while “effect” is a noun.)
Now for trickier examples!
EXAMPLE: If you skip class too often, it will negatively affect your grade.
EXAMPLE: If you skip class too often, it will have a negative effect on your grade.
See how related the two words can be? Both of these sentences have nearly identical content, but one uses “affect” and the other “effect.” How can you tell verb vs. noun? In the first one, you might notice the adverb “negatively” in there. (Big clue that it’s an adverb: it ends in “ly.”) “Negatively” is being used to talk about how your grade will be affected, or, in other words, it’s modifying your verb. In the second sentence, the big clue is the little word “a.” You only use articles (“the,” “a” or “an”) with nouns.
How do I remember which is which? Time for the crazy mnemonics!
I remember that “affect” is a verb, because it starts with an “a,” just like “action,” which is a synonym for “verb.” That one isn’t too bad.
However, my mnemonic for “effect” is a little odd. I remember that “effect” is a noun because it starts with “e,” just like… elephant. Yeah, if anyone out there has a cleverer mnemonic for that one, let me know!
I hope you enjoyed this month’s grammar cake pop! Look for more short and sweet treats in future months!More on: amwriting • grammar tips • writetips