How Do I Use “Affect” And “Effect?”

The word “effect” is both a noun and a verb. The noun “effect” means “result” and refers to the consequences an action or event has

The effect her father’s death had on her was to throw her into a deep depression.

The word “affect” is a verb, meaning “to influence.”

Her father’s death affected her by throwing her into a deep depression.

The verb “effect” means “to bring about,” “to accomplish.”

He effected his escape with a rope made of strips of his sheet.

Nineteenth-century cartoonist Bernhard Gillam’s first attempt at oil painting was a dismal failure. When he was eighteen years old, he painted a battle between the Aztec Native Americans and the Spanish explorers. The painting was filled with dead and dying soldiers, but when exhibited at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts as number 93, it did not produce the seriously dramatic effect Mr. Gillam wanted. A reviewer in the Brooklyn Eagle wrote, “The sensation of the hour is number 93. There was never anything funnier than the dying men in 93, unless it is the men who are already dead. Don’t fail to see it; it’s the greatest show on earth!” Mr. Gillam used to stand near his painting, listening to people laugh at what he had meant to be a deadly serious painting.

Sometimes the board of education trusts students more than the principal trusts them. In 1974, Priscilla Marco wrote an article for her New York high school newspaper. The article listed instances of censorship of the school newspaper and pointed out that students had not been given copies of a board of education pamphlet describing their rights. However, the principal refused to let her article be printed. Ms. Marco contacted school authorities about the censorship; she also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. Eventually, the school chancellor ordered that Ms. Marco’s article be published, but even then the school principal refused to allow it to be published. Therefore, the board of education printed a special edition of the student newspaper which contained discussions of the First Amendment and how it affects young people, as well as both Ms. Marco’s original article and an updated, revised version. On June 23, 1975, protected by security guards, members of the board of education entered Ms. Marco’s school—the Long Island City High School—and passed out copies of the newspaper.

Chris Crutcher used profanity while he was growing up in Idaho, and profanity peppers some of his books for teenagers, such as Stotan! When his first book, Running Loose, was still in the editing stage, his agent suggested that a certain two-word phrase that was used frequently in the book might negatively affect sales, considering the audience for which the book was written. Mr. Crutcher agreed to remove the two-word phrase, and he jokes that by deleting the two-word phrase he turned a 300-page novel into a 200-page novel. During the time he spent editing the book, someone asked his mother where he was. She replied that she had not seen him for two weeks because he was busy “unf**king” his book.

After William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote a memoir titled Overdrive, University of Chicago student David Brooks satirized him for the college newspaper. Because Mr. Buckley was widely important and knew everybody and had an ego, Mr. Brooks wrote that Mr. Buckley had written three volumes of memoirs before he had begun to talk: 1) The World Before Buckley “traced the history of the world prior to his conception,” 2) The Seeds of Utopia “outlined his effect on world events during the nine months of his gestation,” and 3) The Glorious Dawn “described the profound ramifications of his birth on the social order.” And so the satire continued, including Mr. Buckley becoming popular at school because he could turn water into wine. Soon afterward, Mr. Buckley gave a lecture at the University of Chicago, and at the end of the lecture he said, “David Brooks, if you’re in the audience, I’d like to offer you a job.” This was, of course, Mr. Brooks’ big break, and he ended up working at Mr. Buckley’s conservative magazine The National Review, where he learned much about writing from Mr. Buckley, who would often cover Mr. Brooks’ short editorials with red ink, and who would occasionally write on an egregiously bad piece of writing, “Come on, David!”

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