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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