Affect, effect and the peril of snakebites

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Homophones slither through writing like hungry snakes, striking hard and fast when disturbed and leaving a painful mark behind.

Affect and effect are among the slipperiest homophones.

Much of the time, affect is a verb and effect is a noun, as in:

The letter did not affect the outcome of the trial.

The letter had a significant effect on the recipients.

But effect is also a verb meaning to bring about or to act upon, which is what the judge in the example on the right was saying:

Why don’t we see if there’s any way this can be effected (acted upon) today.

In the second example, the writer meant effect, not affect.

The story was trying to explain the influence of a Smithsonian exhibit.

When you use either of these words, always take a little extra time and consider what they mean and what you are trying to say.

You don’t want them to bite you when you’re not looking. The effect is always  unpredictable. 

Just ask the judge.

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