Thursday, June 11, 2015

Affect, Affect, Effect and Effect

Many important yet irksome distinctions in the English language hinge on a single letter - one such hornet’s exists with the affect versus effect problem. When you add in the alternate pronunciation of affect and the alternate meanings of both words, all of which are maddeningly similar, the alphabet soup quickly turns to bisque. A presentable riff I’ve come up with to wrap the four most common contemporary usages (there are others) into a tidy little four-way care package employs an analogy of putting on airs. One might don an affect (accent on the first syllable) in hopes it will affect (accent on the second syllable) one’s social standing. The only actual effect (noun) would be to effect (verb) one’s further rejection. In the case of affect, if the accent is on the first syllable it is a noun; if on the second, it is a verb. In the case of effect, its use in the sentence determines its grammatical function, as the noun and verb versions of it are pronounced identically.