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Pavement pedantry: affect or effect?


Affect or effect? Get it wrong and the effect can be pretty affecting. So what’s right?

There’s a simple rule for when to use affect or effect. Affect is mainly used as a verb and its primary meaning is ‘to influence or make a difference to’. For example:

  1. Too much coffee can affect your health.
  2. Will the hot weather stick around? If it doesn’t my beach barbecue plans will be affected.
  3. Boris Johnson’s hair is seriously affecting my ability to take the Brexit campaign seriously.

Effect on the other hand is used mainly as a noun to refer to a result, or an influence. For example:

  1. Too much coffee can have a negative effect on your health.
  2. The overall effect of this hot weather is a high number of beach barbecues in the Falmouth area.
  3. I am now referring to my disdain for the Brexit campaign as the Boris Johnson hair effect.

(FYI to all you pedants out there, we know that effect is sometimes used as a verb but most often in a more formal context, rather than every day English, so we’re not going dwell on it).

So, to ensure our pavement pedantry affects your writing to positive effect, remember this simple rule of thumb, affect = verb, effect = noun.



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