Change. Do you want to AFFECT it or EFFECT it?

The basic difference (most of the time) between AFFECT and EFFECT is that AFFECT is a verb, and EFFECT is a noun. About 90 percent of the time, that definition will serve you well.  Here are some example sentences:

 My uncle's stroke affected his ability to speak clearly.

My uncle's stroke had an effect on his ability to speak clearly.


The slow economy is affecting the election campaigns.

One definite effect of the slow economy is cuts in local government.

 In a less well-known usage, EFFECT can be used as a verb that means "to bring about" something. I came across this usage recently in a fascinating article about the Great Sunflower Project launched by San Francisco State University associate biology professor Gretchen LeBuhn. LeBuhn has enlisted volunteers across the country to plant sunflowers and other bee-friendly flowers in their yards, then count the number of bees that visit during two 15-minute observation periods each month. She wants to find out why bee populations have plummeted in recent years and what can be done to increase those populations.

Here is the sentence:

I used to despair about our ability to affect change.

I do not know how Gretchen LeBuhn would have spelled this word if she had written her comment rather than spoken it, but the writer who quoted her in the Fall/Winter issue of SF State spelled it AFFECT, which would suggest the idea of "having an impact on" change. I think LeBuhn was probably referring to "bringing about" change, She went on to say in her interview that, "This (the Great Sunflower Project) restored hope in me that we as a society can do some things to really improve the world." I believe the sentence should have been written this way:

I used to despair about our ability to  ef fect change.


Here is another example of an error with the less common usage of AFFECT and EFFECT. It appeared in a comment on one of the LinkedIn forums I read:

I'd say that YES misspelling and bad grammar effect credibility of a company. 

What this writer meant to say was that misspelling and bad grammar have a bad EFFECT on the credibility of a company.  (I agree completely with what she meant to say.) However, as worded, it sounds as if misspelling and bad grammar "bring about" credibility, which is the exact opposite of what she meant.  It should be written one of these two ways:

I'd say that YES misspelling and bad grammar can affect the credibility of a company. 

I'd say that YES misspelling and bad grammar can have a negative effect on the credibility of a company. 



If you would like to know more about the Great Sunflower Project, you can visit




18 Responses to “Change. Do you want to AFFECT it or EFFECT it?”

  1. Julienne says:

    howdy, quality blog, and a decent understand! at least one for my book marks.

  2. admin says:

    My thanks to "eagle eye" editor Betsy for spotting the fact that I had mixed up two words in the first paragraph of this post.  This has now been corrected, and I appreciate her taking time to point it out.  My apologies for having "glitched" my own post!  I should have proofread more carefully.

  3. Freida says:

    Great post, stylish page theme, continue the great work

  4. Muchos Gracias for your blog post.Really thank you! Want more.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Good post but "affect" can also be a noun.

  6. admin says:

    You are correct, Jennifer, but notice that I said “most of the time.” I wanted to give my readers a quick way to remember the most common usage. The use of AFFECT as a noun is today primarily within the field of psychology, and the meaning is very narrow.Theret is also an obsolete usage as a noun meaning a strong emotion or tendency, but that is rarely used today.

    Thank you for your comment and for pointing this out.

  7. wheelinshirt says:

    The psychological meaning of 'affect' as emotional state shows up in some economics and sociology as well.

  8. vic says:

    I would defend "I used to despair about our ability to affect change." from a philosophical point of view.

  9. admin says:

    I would welcome your defense and explanation of the thinking behind it.

  10. livres pdf says:

    I drop a leave a response whenever I especially enjoy a article on a site or if I have
    something to valuable to contribute to the discussion. It’s caused by the sincerness communicated in the
    post I browsed. And after this post Change.
    Do you want to AFFECT it or EFFECT it?

  11. admin says:

    You can follow Grammar Glitch Central on Facebook by just keying in that title. I try to post there once or twice a week. I am not sure what you mean by “brain dead” people. It’s often hard to discern who is serious with a question and who is not. I try to make this blog accessible to both seasoned writers and those who have weaker skills.

  12. Nalynn says:

    I just googled to confirm my usage and found GGC for the first time. Actually helpful with errors and possible corrections for reference. May I suggest including an example from the 'less of the time" also? I wanted to start with [the child's] affect has completely changed over the last several weeks. For a referral report. No, im not correcting punctuation here. 🙂 Yep, a dictionary would have helped as well, but oh, technology!  I appreciate your hint for remembering which is something g I needed! And will also return to check future grammar queries! Appreciate your hard work!! 

  13. admin says:

    Thank you for taking time to let me know you found the blog helpful. Would you please clarify what you meant about an example from “less of the time”? I wasn’t sure what you were asking.


  14. Barbara Reed says:

    I think I made a major grammatical error in an email. Please correct me.  "I think the biggest hurdle today is the affect of media and social media on children". I have agonized over this! Thank you. 


  15. Lois says:

    I would like to affect change in the world in which we live.

  16. admin says:

    I am curious about your meaning here. If you want to BRING ABOUT CHANGE with your own actions, the correct word would be EFFECT–I would like EFFECT change in the world in which we live.

    However, if you want to HAVE AN IMPACT ON change that is occurring in the world, then AFFECT would be the correct choice.

    Which is your choice? 

  17. admin says:

    Yes, you did make a major grammatical error. The word after THE should a noun (EFFECT). Please don’t agonize. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood usage points in our language. Just print out this blog post and keep it handy for the next time you need to make this decision.

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