Write Right: Effect versus Affect

Write Right“Effect” and “affect.” They can be a troublesome pair. When is one the right word and when is one the wrong one?

“Effect” usually is a noun and is a synonym for “result”: “The drug’s effects quickly wore off, requiring an extra dose of Novocain.” The word occasionally is used a verb meaning “to bring about”: “Rosa Parks’ actions effected change.”

“Affect” typically is a verb: “The drugs affected him.” It is not commonly used as a noun except in psychology. Even then, it’s rare. Trying to use the word as a noun can result in all sorts of bloated language and zombie nouns.

Even with that explanation, the words can be confused. They sound similar, and they’re often used in similar settings, as in the drug examples. One way to determine which word is the right one is to determine whether the word required is a verb or noun. The other way is to replace the word with an equivalent, a synonym. Of course, once the equivalent has been used, it may not be necessary to continue the battle between the two words. Their equivalents often perform the same function better than the originals.

How do remember whether to use “effect” or “affect”? Do you have a writing wrong that is in need of righting? Let me know on my Facebook page.


  1. When I was in school, I had a tough English teacher, she gave us surprise tests on knowing the difference between effect and affect!


  1. […] who recognizes that fact may experiment with repetition to see if he or she can create a new effect or affect the reader in a new […]

  2. […] Affect and effect. Affect typically is a verb while effect is a noun. To keep them straight, think of copy written for Zantax or some other drug. The effects of it are nausea, insomnia, irritability, et cetera, et cetera. A person who takes a drug like Benadryl for seasonal allergies is affected by it; he or she can hardly stay awake during the day and dozes off during the afternoon meeting. […]