A or E: Affect vs. Effect Part 2

Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.

Last week we started of a new series within Word Wednesday of commonly confused words. First up, “A” or “E”: Affect vs. Effect.

Usually, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. But effect is often used as a verb and affect is occasionally used as a noun. And if that’s not confusing enough, if you affect something, your action produces an effect.

In case you missed it, check out Part 1, where we discussed affect.

Affect vs. EffectAnd now for effect, without further ado.

Effect:

Noun

1)      The result or consequence of an action or other cause

The tea had a calming effect on her.

Here it may help to think of cause and effect. “Cause” ends with an “E,” which is the first letter in the next word, “effect.” Also, if you can think of the synonyms “result” and “consequence,” neither of these words has an “A,” so neither does the right word, “effect.”

2)      The lights/sounds/scenery of a live or recorded production or broadcast (“special effects”)

Lights! Camera! Action! The movie’s special effects made me think I was really in outer space.

OK, so that has NEVER happened. For some reason every space movie manages to have unexplained gravity working perfectly on their spacecraft. But I digress. Special effects are intended to trick the EyEs and Ears, both of which have E’s and E sounds.

3)      Personal belongings

She collected his effects in a box so her ex could pick them up when she wasn’t home.

And a personal example: I had to list my effects at the hospital when I took off my earrings and such and put them in a plastic bag for storage.

If you can replace effect with “belonging” or “possession” you’ll remember the letter “E.”

Verb

Cause to happen

She cast all the photos of her with her ex into the fire to effect their complete destruction.*

Often used in the phrase “effects change,” you should note that where affect refers to influence, effect drives all the way to the rEsult or to the End.

Well, there you have it, the difference between Affect and Effect.

*My Muse initially suggested that we leave his effects out in a thunderstorm to effect their destruction, but we took the higher path and offered the heroine some closure instead.

A or E: Affect vs. Effect

Learning new words and being able to find the word that means exactly what the story needs can mean the difference between a mediocre story and a brilliant one.

Today marks the start of a new series within Word Wednesday of commonly confused words. First up, “A” or “E”: Affect vs. Effect.

Usually, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. But effect is often used as a verb and affect is occasionally used as a noun. And if that’s not confusing enough, if you affect something, your action produces an effect.

Affect vs. EffectLet’s start with affect. And, since my Muse wants to talk about tea, we’ll do that too.

Affect:

Verb

1)      To influence

Adding a tea bag to hot water affected the color of the water. (influence)

Sorry, no clever mnemonic device comes to mind. You’ll just have to remember this one.

2)      Cause an emotional response in

Drinking a cup of tea affected her mood, giving her a much-needed afternoon pick-me-up. (emotional response)

One way to remember this is an “A” is to remember “affection,” which is emotion, and which is pronounced very clearly with an “A” sound.

3)      Pretend to have or feel

She affected a snobbish pose by sticking out her pinky finger while sipping from the teacup. (pretense)

If you’re a Jane Austen fan, she uses the word “affectation” a fair bit, in the sense of the “pretense” definition. Jane Austen will also therefore help you with the noun form of “affect,” though this one is tricky and easy to mistake for an error.

Noun

Emotion or desire

In an excess of miserable affect, she wept into her teacup when she realized he had broken up with her via text message.

In this case, we’re referring to emotion, or even to desire: She’s overcome by unwanted desire for a guy who doesn’t care for her, or she’s overcome with misery that he’s breaking up with her.

The use of “affect” as a noun could very easily be replaced in almost every case with a clearer, more unambiguous noun. A reader might even assume one meant “effect”, in the sense that his breaking up with her caused her to be melodramatic in her misery, and then be annoyed that the writer used the wrong word. This word is usually used in psychology or medicine when referring to the patient’s affect. Just remember Jane Austen and recognize you’ll probably never need this one.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2, where we discuss effect.