Change. Do you want to AFFECT it or EFFECT it?

The basic difference (most of the time) between AFFECT and EFFECT is that AFFECT is a verb, and EFFECT is a noun. About 90 percent of the time, that definition will serve you well.  Here are some example sentences:

 My uncle's stroke affected his ability to speak clearly.

My uncle's stroke had an effect on his ability to speak clearly.

 

The slow economy is affecting the election campaigns.

One definite effect of the slow economy is cuts in local government.

 In a less well-known usage, EFFECT can be used as a verb that means "to bring about" something. I came across this usage recently in a fascinating article about the Great Sunflower Project launched by San Francisco State University associate biology professor Gretchen LeBuhn. LeBuhn has enlisted volunteers across the country to plant sunflowers and other bee-friendly flowers in their yards, then count the number of bees that visit during two 15-minute observation periods each month. She wants to find out why bee populations have plummeted in recent years and what can be done to increase those populations.

Here is the sentence:

I used to despair about our ability to affect change.

I do not know how Gretchen LeBuhn would have spelled this word if she had written her comment rather than spoken it, but the writer who quoted her in the Fall/Winter issue of SF State spelled it AFFECT, which would suggest the idea of "having an impact on" change. I think LeBuhn was probably referring to "bringing about" change, She went on to say in her interview that, "This (the Great Sunflower Project) restored hope in me that we as a society can do some things to really improve the world." I believe the sentence should have been written this way:

I used to despair about our ability to  ef fect change.

 

Here is another example of an error with the less common usage of AFFECT and EFFECT. It appeared in a comment on one of the LinkedIn forums I read:

I'd say that YES misspelling and bad grammar effect credibility of a company. 

What this writer meant to say was that misspelling and bad grammar have a bad EFFECT on the credibility of a company.  (I agree completely with what she meant to say.) However, as worded, it sounds as if misspelling and bad grammar "bring about" credibility, which is the exact opposite of what she meant.  It should be written one of these two ways:

I'd say that YES misspelling and bad grammar can affect the credibility of a company. 

I'd say that YES misspelling and bad grammar can have a negative effect on the credibility of a company. 

 

 

If you would like to know more about the Great Sunflower Project, you can visit www.greatsunflower.org.

 

 


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11 Responses to “Change. Do you want to AFFECT it or EFFECT it?”

  1. Julienne says:

    howdy, quality blog, and a decent understand! at least one for my book marks.

  2. admin says:

    My thanks to "eagle eye" editor Betsy for spotting the fact that I had mixed up two words in the first paragraph of this post.  This has now been corrected, and I appreciate her taking time to point it out.  My apologies for having "glitched" my own post!  I should have proofread more carefully.

  3. Freida says:

    Great post, stylish page theme, continue the great work

  4. Muchos Gracias for your blog post.Really thank you! Want more.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Good post but "affect" can also be a noun.

  6. admin says:

    You are correct, Jennifer, but notice that I said “most of the time.” I wanted to give my readers a quick way to remember the most common usage. The use of AFFECT as a noun is today primarily within the field of psychology, and the meaning is very narrow.Theret is also an obsolete usage as a noun meaning a strong emotion or tendency, but that is rarely used today.

    Thank you for your comment and for pointing this out.

  7. wheelinshirt says:

    The psychological meaning of 'affect' as emotional state shows up in some economics and sociology as well.

  8. vic says:

    I would defend "I used to despair about our ability to affect change." from a philosophical point of view.

  9. admin says:

    I would welcome your defense and explanation of the thinking behind it.

  10. livres pdf says:

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    Do you want to AFFECT it or EFFECT it? « Grammar Glitch Central.
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  11. admin says:

    You can follow Grammar Glitch Central on Facebook by just keying in that title. I try to post there once or twice a week. I am not sure what you mean by “brain dead” people. It’s often hard to discern who is serious with a question and who is not. I try to make this blog accessible to both seasoned writers and those who have weaker skills.

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