Friday, 25 November 2016

Effect vs. Affect

The easiest way to tell these homonyms apart is to remember that, most of the time, we use effect as a noun and affect as a verb. In other words, an effect is usually a thing, while to affect usually involves doing something. (Mnemonic tip: affect = action.)

  • The effects of the transporter have never been fully explained.
  • Geraldo’s love spell had no effect on the handsome gargoyle.
  • Carrying the Righteous Sword of Truth within my body does not affect my digestion. 
  • Mr. Rogers’s affecting monologue had us all in tears.

However, English being the gloriously contrarian language it is, there are other, less common definitions of both words that don’t follow the same rule.

Aurora Consurgens 1420s Germany
Carrying the Righteous Sword of Truth within my body does not affect my digestion.

Effect as a Verb


The verb effect is most often seen in bureaucratese as a pompous way of saying “to bring about” or “to make happen.”

  • Pipe Kleenerz Inc. was able to effect a change in its fuzziness policies.

This is not to be confused with the verb affect, which means “to influence.”

  • EvilCorp affected the environmental legislation through nefarious means. (EvilCorp influenced the legislation.)
  • Our municipal government effected its anti-mime legislation last week. (The legislation was put into effect.)

Affect as a Noun


An affect (pronounced AF-fect rather than af-FECT) is an emotion or, in psychiatric circles, the manifestation of an emotion. For example, descriptions of depression or autism will sometimes mention a “flat affect,” that is, not showing visible evidence of feelings.

  • As a chef, Mandeep’s usual affect is of barely restrained fury.
  • The movie villain’s lack of affect was more disturbing than clich├ęd moustache-twirling.

Affect as Another Verb


Beyond “to influence,” the verb affect can also mean “to pretend (a behaviour) in order to impress.” This meaning is related to the noun affectation, “a contrived manner.”

  • Randy affects a British accent at gallery openings, but no one is fooled.
  • At seventeen, Zahra decided to affect a plumed hat whenever she went out.
  • Keiko affected a limp so no one would suspect she was a cat burglar.

Shaykh Abbasi(?), Woman in a European Hat Holding a Flower
At seventeen, Zahra decided to affect a plumed hat whenever she went out.

So, you might affect a certain affect in order to create an effect that will affect those around you, thus effecting your master plan.

(Sorry.)


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