Affect and effect

When to use ‘affect’ and ‘effect’

“Affect” and “effect” sound alike and have somewhat similar meanings, so how do you know which one to use?

A is for action.

For the most part, “affect” is the verb, the action that makes changes happen. You can affect the world around you. And ants crawling over your picnic blanket can affect your appetite.

E is for existence.

“Effect” is usually the noun, the result that exists after you have acted. You can see the effects in the world around you. Exploding cars and enraged elephants might be considered special effects.

Then it gets trickier.

You can effect a change in the world, bringing it into existence. And your affect is your visible emotional response, your reaction to stimuli. In such cases, “effect” become the verb and “affect” the noun. But these are uncommon exceptions to the general rule.

Typically speaking, just as you have to go through a to get to e in the alphabet, you have to affect something before you can see the effects.

If you still can’t remember it, try a song.

To the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”:

Affect, affect, little A,
Making changes night and day.
You affect the world around,
But switch to e and you’re a noun.
Effect, effect, little e,
Effects are results we see.

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