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Feb 12 2010   1:22PM GMT

Effect vs. affect; amorous cats

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
A manager’s level of emotional intelligence _______ the entire office.
a. effects
b. affects


Answer: b

Explanation:
As a verb, affect means to influence. Effect, as a verb, means to cause or to bring about. A manager’s level of emotional intelligence definitely influences the entire office but doesn’t bring an entire office into existence.

In his post on affective disorder, Mark Allen explains the difference using the example of cats:

To use my copy editor friend’s example, let’s delve into the differences using two nouns, “catnip” and “cats.” Catnip is our subject of our examples; cats are the objects that the verb refers to. Both affect and effect can be verbs, so:

  • Catnip affects cats.
  • Catnip effects cats.

Affect means “to influence.” “Catnip influences cats.” It certainly does. The verb form is usually “affect.” Use it whenever something is taking an action on something that already exists.

Effect means to bring about, to cause. “Catnip causes cats.” Clearly that does not make sense. To “effect” a cat, one must create a cat. To be precise, a daddy cat and a mommy cat fall in love, etc. Their mating effects a litter of kittens.

So… maybe if catnip has an aphrodisiac effect, it could make mommy and daddy cats fall in love and then they would etc. So the catnip could start a chain of events that could lead to kittens… but we can’t really say that catnip effects cats, at least not in a direct sense.

Now go back and read the rest of Mark’s post. Then go follow him on Twitter @EditorMark. Because he is very smart, funny and informative.

Follow us on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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