MAKE:TNT Tools 'n' Tips

Grammar Tip: Affect vs. Effect


Just continuing my campaign to keep makers grammatically correct; there are a number of verbs that we makers use with some frequency, so I thought it might be time to clear the air. Here's another pair of words we often trip over at the MAKE office.

Affect and effect are easily confused because, let's be honest, they're spelled almost exactly the same way. However, to "affect" something means to "have an influence on" it. To "effect" something means to "cause" it. So, you can effect a dramatic change in your workshop by cleaning up after yourself, but the rest of the house won't be affected unless you clean up there, too.

These words confuse further because they're not always used as verbs. "Effect" can also mean a result (i.e. what is the effect of forgetting to clean your soldering iron?) and "affect" can also refer to an expression of emotion (i.e. when you found out that your soldering iron was destroyed when you forgot to wipe it clean, you had a dramatic change in affect).

One easy trick is to remember that "a" comes before "e" in the alphabet, and, at least in the case of affect the verb and effect the noun, you must affect something first to achieve an effect.

Voila! It's as easy as that. Now go and effect a grammar revolution.