Thursday, April 17, 2008

Homonyms that make me go hmmmm......

Homonyms are words that are similar, but have different meanings. Examples of homonyms include: two/to/too, accept/except, and there/their/they're.

All of which I have no problem with. The one that always catches me is affect/effect.

I've tried to google up some simple rules but haven't had much luck.

According to there are 5 rules for their use. Including
2. It is appropriate to use the word "effect" if one of these words is used immediately before the word: into, no, take, the, any, an, or and.
As if I'm ever going to remember that (along with 4 others) while I'm writing a document.

Some people say it's simple. That "affect" should deal with influence while "effect" should deal with result or causality. But to me that doesn't clarify it sufficiently, sometimes something can be interpreted as both resultant and causal.

For example, I had to send an email this morning with the following line:
Not to mention that new functionality can (and often does) have an effect on existing functionality.

I went with "effect" but one could easily argue that "affect" would have worked as well. Looking at it now, part of me thinks I should have used "affect".

Does anyone have an easy rule or two for working out affect vs effect?


Barf said...

There's always the cheater option. Sub in words that instill a greater degree of confidence:

impact, inspire, encourage, impress
result, outcome, aftermath.

As for braving the grammar battlefield, I see effect superseding affect when both are acceptable uses. Something may affect you in a way to produce action, but once that goal is achieved, then it has effected you.

Evolving Squid said...

In almost every case, "affect" is a verb and "effect" is a noun.

There are a few exceptions where "effect" is a verb, but you don't see them very often.