Grammarland: Affect, Effect, and Affectation

affect, effect

Image found at The Mojo


Despite the best intentions of english teachers everywhere, affect vs. effect still ends up on almost every single common grammar mistake list out there.  I should know, I mix them up nearly every time.

The fact is, most normal people won’t call you out on this. But if you are reading this blog I have to assume you are indeed a writer and you don’t tend to associate with “normal” people. You let other writers read your work, heaven forbid, and chances are they will rub your face in catch this mistake, if you don’t get it right.  You could even be sending your material into an agent or publisher (gasp!) and your credibility depends on your expert usage of words.

So pay attention! (You can thank me later.)

Effect – Like in ‘special effect’ or ‘sound effect,’ is a thing.  It is a noun and must be used as one. For example: That color has a great effect on people’s moods.  It refers to the change itself (noun) and not the act of changing (verb). The word effect also refers to your personal items, specifically the things you fell you must carry around with you. They are your ‘personal effects.”

Affect – is not a thing. Like ever. It is and will always be a verb. It refers to the act of changing. For example: How is that drug affecting you? If you aren’t sure, swap out ‘affect’ for the word “change” and the sentence should still logically work.

Affectation – a way of acting that is meant to impress but is artificial. I’ve heard it used when people speak in a very deliberate way or with a pretend, more dignified accent. He had the affectation of a man used to speaking at formal gatherings. Affectation is also used to express a display of real or pretend feeling. The actress put on an affectation of calm, despite her frazzled nerves.


Ok, I lied a little.  Nothing in the English language is set in stone. There are very few exceptions to these rules.  In rare cases, ‘effect’ can be used as a transitive verb that means to bring about or make happen. Weird, I know. Example: My new girlfriend effected a bizarre need in me to learn how to cook.  Also in super rare cases ‘affect’ can be used as a noun, almost as a swap out for the word ‘influence’.

Just in case you didn’t think I was serious, here is a list of different grammar articles that include ‘affect’ and ‘effect.’


Note from Jodi: You may have noticed a few changes around the blog.  I’ve removed the insane list of links from the sidebar, updated the About me page, and added a Books page as well.  I’m looking for a different theme as well that has a better sized font for reading. More changes to come, but until then poke around and see what you find!


About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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7 Responses to Grammarland: Affect, Effect, and Affectation

  1. Cat Lemonade says:

    I’m always getting “its” and “it’s” mixed up the way people do with “effect” and “affect.” I’ve never understood why possessives of proper nouns got apostrophes, but “it” doesn’t.

    And I like the new & improved pages you’ve added! “will stay locked in a drawer forever.” LOL I’ve got one like that, too!

  2. quiall says:

    You can be affected by the effect of your affectation. hahaha

  3. ericjbaker says:

    99% of the time, if writers ask themselves, “is this supposed to be a noun (effect) or a verb (affect) here?” they’ll make the correct choice.

  4. Pingback: An Ode to Grammar Day! (In Verse) | My Literary Quest

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