The words affect and effect are so similar in meaning, spelling and pronunciation that they often get mixed up and misused. Many readers, however, catch this common mistake, so don’t let it happen to you!

The most important rule of thumb is that, in most cases, affect is a verb, while effect is a noun.

The most common meaning of affect is “to influence.” Effect most commonly means “the result” or “an impression.” Examples:

  • My music affected Taylor’s studying.
  • We’re testing how substituting apple sauce affects this banana bread recipe.
  • Happy with the positive effects, Clara continues to run three times a week.
  • Kim kept complaining and the effect on the group wasn’t pretty.

These two words have other, less common, meanings. Affect can mean “to pretend” or “a mental state,” often in reference to psychology. Effect can also be a verb meaning “to bring about” or a noun meaning “personal property or belongings.”

While these meanings are rare, they are still important to consider and look out for. Examples:

  • He tried to affect an air of confidence, but his hands were visibly shaking. (Here, affect means “to pretend.”)
  • The doctor warned her that a flat affect may be a possible side effect, but she did not find this to be true. (Here, affect means “a mental state.”
  • Among the effects found in the desk was a beautiful gold watch. (Here, effect means “personal belongings.”)
  • The lobbyist hoped he would effect significant change this year. (Here, effect means “to bring about.”) 
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