Affect vs. Effect; Accept vs. Except: how to use them

Affect vs. Effect

My managing editor at The Uniter (hi Stacy!) mentioned earlier this week that she often stumbles over these two words when writing a piece, and I have to say that I agree. The English language is full of words such as affect and effect. I really like both of these words and use them frequently, but every time that I use them I have to pause and think carefully for a moment about which word is the correct one for the context I’m using it in. Affect vs. effect: which one is which?

affect vs. effect

The tutorial you’ve always wanted.

While playing around searching for more information about the tricky business behind the similarities and differences with affect vs. effect, I found a number of fascinating websites and articles featuring this very question. These two words cause difficulties for so many people that the question of when each one is appropriate even has its very own website!

Even though it is clearly a major stumbling block for many people, the differences between affect and effect are really quite simple:

Affect is a verb (unless it’s being used in the psychological context, in which case its a noun). It’s the action and it influences something. For example, “The cold weather affects my mood negatively.”

Effect, on the other hand, is a noun, and it is the result of the action. For example, “The rain had the effect of drenching me completely.”

A fun way to remember the basic differences with affect vs. effect are with Grammar Girl’s helpful mnemonics:

The arrow affected the aardvark and the effect was eye-popping.

Accept vs. Except

These two words are misused almost as often as affect and effect. Luckily, an easy way to remember the difference between the two is that accept means you’re agreeing (alliteration is a handy mnemonic; in this case, both “accept” and “agree” start with the letter “a”) to something. For example, “She accepted that she needed to brush up on her grammar skills.”

Except implies exclusion and points to the odd one out. For example, “They all played soccer except for Jenny.”

A word of caution

Affect and effect, just like accept and except, are not interchangeable! They each have their own context in which they should be used, so let’s keep them in their rightful places.

What words do you have difficulty with? Do you have any tricks to keep them apart so you remember when (and when not) to use them? Is affect vs. effect a constant stumbling block for you? Share in the comments section below!

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