I searched for some examples of the confusion of “affect” and “effect” and was glad that stories recently published in The N&O used the two words correctly. Writers (and perhaps their editors) have this distinction down pat.
“Affect” is most often a verb that means “to influence” or “to have an effect on.” Here is a sentence from a recent news story that uses “affect” correctly: The state Supreme Court decision does not affect ESC employees who process unemployment-benefits claims.
“Effect” is most often a noun that means “intent” or “influence.” Here is an example from a recent news story: The recommended pay range could have a significant effect on the sensitive dance that is the recruitment of a high-level university president.
But, of course, these two words have counterparts. “Effect” can be a verb, meaning “to bring about a result” or “to bring into being.” Example: The company wishes to effect a change in the way it handles claims. “Affect” can be a noun, used only in psychological contexts, meaning an emotion or a feeling. That word is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, unlike the verb “affect,” which is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab has good advice for students on this spelling problem.
This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.