Oh, I know, you’ve got this. You’ve mastered “affect” vs. “effect.” You didn’t even need Get a Grip on Your Grammar to teach you the difference between this tricky pair. But then came this moment in your life, and you’re ready to “effect change” in the world (or are you ready to “affect change” in the world)? Uh oh. “Affect Change” or “Effect Change”?
Do you still feel as confident as you did a moment ago?
First, some review:
- “Affect” is most commonly a verb meaning “to influence.”
- “Effect” is most commonly a noun meaning “a result.”
When you affect something, there is an effect. Simple, right?
But are you bothered that I used “commonly” in both of those definitions? That’s because there are a lot of subtleties to these two words, where they just want to mess with you. Okay, perhaps words don’t actually want to mess with you, but it feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it?
I could go deeper here (and have … ahem, Get a Grip…), but let’s get to the crux of today’s conversation.
Is it “Affect Change” or “Effect Change”?
The moment you think of noun versus verb, you might think you have it down. However, here’s the curve-ball:
The correct phrase is “to effect change.” Yes, “effect” with an “e.”
Are you effecting change in your community through your work or your words?
Are you effecting change in your manuscript by delving into your editing?
Are you effecting change among your family and friends by being the role model desperately needed?
No matter how you might be doing it, you’re effecting change. I see the logic of “affecting” here, but it’s simply not the correct answer. English language rule exceptions are in effect again. (See what I did there? In effect? Yep, for something to be “in effect,” it’s another usage of “effect” with an “e.”)
Complicated? It seems so; it’s true. But you’ve got this. Of everything you might feel up against, the English language doesn’t have to be on the list.
Speaking of effecting change, Gandhi is frequently given credit for the quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Powerful words? Absolutely. Were they actually Gandhi’s? Uh oh, have I made you hesitate again?
This line is actually a paraphrase of his words, close but not quite something he ever said. I know you’ve seen it on memes, bumper stickers, and who knows where else, but just because you see something used doesn’t mean that it’s accurate. It’s as true for grammar and spelling as it is for anything else.
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