It's Not Effect, It's Affect! The Grammar Connundrum

I know... I'm not the greatest speller in the world, nor do I have the best grammar, but I do try to work on it... and like every human being, I have some pet peeves about conjugation, and improper use of words. No, I will not borrow you my stapler, which I had boughten last week! (har har)

Lately, though I love my TuD community, I've been really bugged by one thing: The improper use of the words affect and effect in people's posts. Here's a nice column by the "The Grammar Girl," so if you suffer from this bad habit, you too can make the distinction! :)

Affect Versus Effect

Episode 121: July 29, 2008
Word Choice

This is an expanded show based on the original episode covering when to use affect with an a and when to use effect with an e.

This question is from Eric on the voicemail line.

"I have a question for you regarding the "affect or effect" conundrum. Please shed some light on this for me. I've read style guides but I can never remember, so I'm looking for some kind of mnemonic or something that might help."

This is by far the most requested grammar topic, so I have a few mnemonics and a matching cartoon to help you remember.

Before we get to the memory trick though, I want to explain the difference between the two words.

It's actually pretty straightforward. The majority of the time you use affect with an a as a verb and effect with an e as a noun.


Affect with an a means "to influence," as in, "The arrows affected Ardvark," or "The rain affected Amy's hairdo." Affect can also mean, roughly, "to act in a way that you don't feel," as in, "She affected an air of superiority."


Effect with an e has a lot of subtle meanings as a noun, but to me the meaning "a result" seems to be at the core of all the definitions. For example, you can say, "The effect was eye-popping," or "The sound effects were amazing," or "The rain had no effect on Amy's hairdo."

Common Uses of Affect and Effect

Most of the time affectwith an a is a verb andeffect with an e is a noun.

So most of the time affect with ana is a verb and effect with an e is a noun. There are rare instances where the roles are switched, and I'll get to those later, but for now let's focus on the common meanings. This is "Quick and Dirty" grammar, and my impression from your questions is that most people have trouble remembering the basic rules of when to use these words, so if you stick with those, and you'll be right 95% of the time.

So, most of the time, affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun; and now we can get to the mnemonics. First, the mnemonic involves a very easy noun to help you remember:aardvark. Yes, if you can remember aardvark -- a very easy noun -- you'll always remember thataffect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun. Why? Because the first letters of "a veryeasy noun" are the same first letters as "affectverb effect noun!" That's a very easy noun. Affect(with an a) verb effect (with an e) noun.

"But why Aardvark?" you ask. Because there's also an example to help you remember. It's "The arrows affected Aardvark. The effect was eye-popping." It should be easy to remember thataffect with an a goes with the a-words, arrow and aardvark, and that effect with an e goes with the e-word, eye-popping. If you can visualize the sentences, "The arrows affected the aardvark. The effect was eye-popping," it's pretty easy to see that affect with an a is a verb and effect with an e is a noun.

And you absolutely must go to the transcript at, even if you've never been there before, because I posted the illustration of the example from my new book. It's Aardvark being affected by arrows, and I think looking at it will help you remember the example sentences; and it's cute. So if you go to you can print it out and hang it by your desk.

So a very easy noun will help you remember that affect with an a is a verb andeffect with an e is a noun, and the example will help you see how to use both words in a sentence.

Rare Uses of Affect and Effect

So what about those rare meanings that don't follow the rules I just gave you? Well, affect can be used as a noun when you're talking about psychology--it means the mood that someone appears to have. For example, "She displayed a happy affect." Psychologists find it useful because they know that you can never really understand what someone else is feeling. You can only know how theyappear to be feeling.

And, effect can be used as a verb that essentially means "to bring about," or "to accomplish." For example, you could say, "Aardvark hoped to effect change within the burrow."

Ha!!! Thanks, Lizmari. This has actually made me wince a few times too. (I’m an author, which makes me kind of a grammar snob, although I certainly have my own grammar/punctuation/spelling issues.) Hoping this will help! :slight_smile:

I’m a technical writer and editor. As a frequent user of Internet forums and social networking media, I’ve long since given up on people using proper grammar. It’s a sad commentary on our education system.

I realize that English is an extremely complex language, but I don’t think the majority college grads could describe the basic parts of speech or what subject/verb agreement is. I won’t even get into things like split infinitives and gerunds.

One that bothers me is insure & ensure. They’re, their & there are problematic also.

It kills me that words with the same pronunciation are spelled differently and that there is no way to know how to pronounce a word given the spelling. I like simplicity and efficiency. Natural language lacks both.

That was an effective demonstraiton of the distinction between the two words. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will have any affect on future posts you might read here.

Now a little limerick on the subject:

To affect an effective affect,
It helps to create the effect,
Of having no college,
Yet acquiring the knowledge,
To distinguish “effect” from “affect.”


Love it, Terry! LOL It may not have an effect, I know… I just had to say it, cus it was driving me nuts. lol

Shannon, that is the beauty of it all. If we software engineers were gramatical masters then where would the technical writers be or people who love to write? It is a craft in itself. I have always turned to our technial writers in the past in several projects to take what I have written and turned it into what it should be. I know that my writting has gone down hill. I focus more on higher level software development functions and turning out good grammer and documentation takes a lot of work so I leave it to the experts.

I guess it depends on what people want to focus on. I know everyone says that we should all work on our writting but I have learned that people focus on what they really love. I love writting code and leave the language writting to people who love to write. It is their craft and mine is to create solid software.

take care