Remembering to RAVEN on

Graphic courtesy of

Graphic courtesy of

The American actor effected a change in his affect to affect his chances of getting a role as a British character. He affected a British accent and a flat affect, which had the positive effect of getting him the part.

Confused? It’s okay — you’re not alone. “Affect” versus “effect” is one of those rules that’s understandably confusing to many people, but also makes your writing look incredibly sloppy if messed up. It doesn’t help that they’re pronounced almost exactly alike and that each word has multiple, overlapping meanings. Combined, “affect” and “effect” have five different meanings, which is honestly about three too many for my taste.

I’ll go into all the obscure ways you can use “affect” and “effect” in a moment, but since you probably won’t run into those usages all the time, I’ll first give you an easy way to remember the difference between the most common meanings of “affect” and “effect.”

If you ever find yourself mixing them up, just RAVEN — Remember, Affect is a Verb and Effect is a Noun — usually. If you want to make sure you’re using the right word, it gets a lot more complicated than that.

“Affect” is usually a verb that means “to influence something” as in, “The rain will affect the football team’s performance.” However, it can also mean “to pretend to feel something,” as in “I affected a smile” or “His accent is an affect.” It can even be a psychology term meaning “emotion or behavior,” as in “The man had a blunted affect.”

“Effect” is usually a noun that means “a change resulting from an action,” as in “That speech really had an effect on me.” It can also be a verb — this is the tricky part — that at first glance looks like a synonym for “affect,” but actually differs very subtly. Here, “effect” means “to cause something,” as in “The placebo did not effect any changes in the patient.”

If you feel overwhelmed by now, don’t worry. As long as you can RAVEN, you’ll be set most of the time. So the next time you’re struggling to choose between “affect” and “effect,” keep calm — and RAVEN on.