Learn when to use affect and effect so you can prevent embarrassment. With just a few writing tips, you can better self-edit!

Basic editing skills are a must for any writer or editor. Good writing is a hallmark of professionalism.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to view your writing with a fresh pair of eyes after you’ve worked on a piece for such a long time. While not all of us are born excellent writers, you can learn basic grammar and punctuation rules for proper paper editing.

This blog can be of assistance by displaying the rules of a grammar problem that even this editor struggles with: The difference between affect and effect.

When you affect something, you produce an effect.

Most people solve this problem by asking themselves whether they need a verb or a noun. If you are using it as a verb, use affect. If you need a noun, use effect.

However, it is not always this cut and dry. The questions below should assist you in using affect and effect correctly.

The Difference Between Affect and Effect?


Are you talking about a result? (What was the effect of the new law?)

Was this caused or brought about? (cause/effect)

Is this a phenomenon? (i.e., the El Nino effect)


Is this a facial expression/emotion or accent? (flat affect, affected speech)

Are you describing influence? Acting on something? (The donation affected the use of the money.)

Here are a few examples of proper usage:

  • Has the new policy had an effect?
  • How has the policy affected the staff?
  • Her affect did not change when she received the bad news.
  • The effect of the bad news was noticeable.

These homonyms can be difficult to use correctly. Remembering the verb/noun rule should help, and hopefully, this list will be able to assist you in a pinch.

The professional editors at FirstEditing.com are here to aid you with all of your editing and proofreading needs. Regardless of whether you are writing your dissertation, an article for an academic journal, or a book, let us help you today!

Originally posted 9/2/2010 and happily updated 10/29/2017. Thanks for reading!

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