Grammar: Cause and “Effect”

This post is part of a series on grammar and vocabulary. From time to time, I will post short articles highlighting some of the common mistakes that people say during their presentations or write on their slides, and how to avoid them.

Today we look at the words “affect” and “effect”.

Each word can be either a noun or a verb. The basic definitions of each (there are others) are set out below:

  • Affect (noun): the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion.
  • Affect (verb): to have an emotional impact; to have an effect on; to pretend with an intent to deceive.
  • Effect (noun): impact; influence; something that follows something else (“cause and effect”).
  • Effect (verb): to bring about into being.

I agree with the advice in this article about when to use “affect” or “effect”.

A good rule of thumb is as follows: If you are using the word as a verb, it will most likely be “affect”; if you are using the word as a noun, it will most likely be “effect”.

Remember this tip and your slides will not be adversely affected.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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5 Responses to Grammar: Cause and “Effect”

  1. Charlene Tritipeskul says:

    Thank you for clarifying these two words.

  2. Another way to remember the difference between affect and effect is to consider affect an action and effect is an emotion or entity. Someone told me that recently and though it won’t work all the time, it’s a fairly reliable way to distinguish between the two.

    • Tom Zook says:

      I think you got this backward, Patricia

      • pmwriting says:

        The effect of my inadequate attempt to distinguish these words by connecting their first letters with definitions has, I fear, affected your understanding.
        Perhaps the way I worded my comment was confusing. What I meant to suggest is that affect — a verb — implies an action as in the sentence, “Rain will affect the turnout for the parade.”
        By saying effect is an emotion, I meant that as a noun, effect usually describes an emotion or impact as in the sentence, “Rain will have a negative effect on the turnout at the parade.”
        Thanks for your comment as it allowed me to clairfy what I meant.

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