A Kinda Corny Trick for Remembering Affect vs. Effect

I have a little trick for remembering the difference between “affect” and “effect.” It’s a little corny/childish, so I don’t broadcast it. But, truth be told, I sometimes use it to get myself out of a momentary brain cramps. So I might as well ’fess up.

As I’ve discussed here before, “affect” is usually a verb and “effect” is usually a noun. So you would say “I’m affected by coffee because caffeine has a strong effect on me.” That “affect” is a verb --  it’s an action coffee is performing -- and that “effect” is a noun -- a thing.

If you’re having one of “those moments,” which I sometimes do, you can forget which is which. The confusion is compounded by the fact that “affect” can sometimes be a noun meaning a person’s emotional state. Also, “effect” can be a verb. Ever hear someone talk about wanting to “effect positive change”? That’s the verb form of “effect.” It means “to bring about” and is a distinct word from the verb “affect.”

But those uses are rare compared to the main definitions of “affect” and “effect.” So it’s safe to say that “affect” is almost always a verb and “effect” is almost always a noun.

Here’s how I remember that whenever my brain seizes up: I think of the term “side effect.” That, to me, is clearly a noun -- a thing. And I note that the “e” in “side” prompts me to write “e” in “effect.” So that reminds me that the noun form is the one that begins with “e.”

I suspect that, for some people, that’s not at all helpful. Only if you think of the first "e" as a prompt for the second does this make any sense at all. But it works for me.


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One Response to “A Kinda Corny Trick for Remembering Affect vs. Effect”

  1. Hi there! I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your explanation on the difference between affect and effect. I am a high school English teacher and have trouble myself remembering the difference. I recently started a grammar lesson with my 9th grade students and the difference between affect and effect has come up. I told them the difference, but your little "hint" that you are not proud to boast, has helped! Sometimes it's the corny things that stick with us the most and help us out in the greatest way.