Commonly Confused Words: Affect/Effect

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Will your legal brief positively affect the outcome of your client’s litigation? Or should that be effect?

Uses of Affect

  • Affect (Verb): Affect is typically used as a verb meaning “causing a change”: “The threatened litigation affected my client’s mood.”
  • Affect (Noun): Affect is also sometimes used as a noun meaning “a change in demeanor or mood”: “The therapist noted a sudden shift in the CEO’s affect.”

Uses of Effect

  • Effect (Noun): Effect is typically used as a noun meaning “a result or outcome”: “The threatened litigation had detrimental effects on my client.”
  • Effect (Verb): Effect is also sometimes used as a verb meaning “create”: “The new partner hopes to effect changes in the firm’s compensation structure.”

Rules—Affect or Effect:

(1) When affect or effect function as a VERB, use affect if you mean CHANGE (“this news might affect our revenues this quarter”) and effect if you mean CREATE (“this news might effect a change in how we do business around here”).

(2) When these words function as NOUNS, use effect (“this has an effect on our bottom line”) unless you are describing someone’s appearance/demeanor (“she displayed an unusual affect during today’s meeting”).

And with those rules in mind, let’s effect a change in how you use these words with a few practice problems!

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1 / 5

1. Fill in the blank: The nuanced intonations one employs while delivering an opening statement ________ how the audience comprehends and retains the shared information.

2 / 5

2. Fill in the blank: Several unanticipated and largely novel ________ emerged because of Congress’s new bill.

3 / 5

3. In which of these sentences is the underlined language correct?

I. Because of there training, first responders can affect recovery rates and save lives.

II. Because of there training, first responders can effect recovery rates and save lives.

III. Because of their training, first responders can affect recovery rates and save lives.

IV. Because of their training, first responders can effect recovery rates and save lives.

4 / 5

4. In which of these sentences is the underlined language correct?

I. Macroeconomic conditions had an effect on our bottom line.

II. She displayed an unnerving effect on the stand during her testimony.

III. The new administration is hoping to effect a peace settlement.

5 / 5

5. Which of the following rewrites of the underlined phrase in the following sentence is correct? The buyer agrees to affect a purchase of no fewer than 30 units per order.

Your score is

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