Tuesday, May 22, 2012
You probably already know that if you're using it as a noun, "effect" is almost always correct. And if you're using it as a verb, "affect" is the safe bet (though there are exceptions). But here's an additional tip for deciding which to choose that you may not have heard of before; if you can put the word "good" or "bad" in front and it still makes sense, it's probably "effect" that you intend to use. From Lynn Gaertner-Johnson's Business Writing blog:
People in business writing classes have been asking for ways to know whether affect or effect is correct. Here are my best tips for choosing the appropriate word.
If you are choosing a noun, your correct choice will be effect 99 percent of the time.
- The medicine had no effect on her condition.
- In the lab it is difficult to duplicate the effect of the weather on the siding.
- This change will have no effect on your retirement funds.
- This setting softens the harsh effect of the ceiling lights.
- His mood always has an effect on mine.
If it is not easy for you to distinguish between a noun (a person, place, thing, or idea) and a verb (a word that generally shows action), here is a tip: If you can insert the word bad or good in front of the word and it makes sense, it is a noun.
Applying the bad or good tip to choosing affect or effect, if you can insert bad or good in front of the word, 99 percent of the time your correct choice will be effect. Examples:
- The medicine had no [good] effect on her condition.
- In the lab it is difficult to duplicate the [bad] effect of the weather on the siding.
- This change will have no [bad] effect on your retirement funds.
- This setting softens the [bad] effect of the ceiling lights.
- His mood always has a [good] effect on mine.
Compare these sentences, in which neither bad nor good makes sense before the word without restructuring the sentence. That means you need affect, the verb:
- The medicine does not affect her condition.
- The weather affects the siding.
- This change will not affect your retirement funds.
- The ceiling lights affect the feeling of the room.
- His mood always affects mine.
If your word ends in -ed or -ing, it is probably a verb. That verb will nearly always be affected or affecting.