Funny how things work out. The other day I read a statistic saying that worldwide, four out of five English speakers didn’t know the difference between “affect” and “effect.” This made me realize that I didn’t have a real handle on the difference and meant to look it up. But I didn’t until yesterday – when the issue came up at work.
Looking the words up in the dictionary only muddied the waters for me. They seemed too… similar. So I went to an old buddy, my copy of The Associated Press Stylebook.
So as a public service, I present to you the correct way to use these words, courtesy of the AP:
Affect, as a verb, means to influence: The game will affect the standings.
Affect, as a noun, is best avoided. It occasionally is used in psychology to describe an emotion, but there is no need for it in everyday language.
Effect, as a verb, means to cause: He will effect many changes in the company.
Effect, as a noun, means result: The effect was overwhelming. He miscalculated the effect of his actions. It was a law of little effect.
I suppose this means that instead of saying “cause and effect,” one could say “effect and effect.” But I wouldn’t dare bring up something confusing like that.
NP – iPod Shuffle: Sade, “Jezebel“