Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Cause an(d) Effect – A Conspiracy

Posted on: January 11, 2010

I’m not usually one to believe in conspiracy theories, but I think I have one here and I know who’s behind it.  After I out them here, I may need to go into hiding.  Ready?  What I want to know is when did the word “effect” get replaced by the word “affect?”  Seriously, what in the world is “cause and affect?”  I know what you are thinking… YES, you are losing sleep over this too, aren’t you?

Let’s start with the definitions.  In a nutshell, “effect” refers to a physical response, while “affect” refers to an emotional response.  So in physics, I can comfortably suggest that most of the time we are talking about “cause and effect.”  By the way, please go to your own favorite [real] dictionary and look up the words.  I insist.  A good scientist doesn’t work from second hand information when a primary source is available.

Now keep your eyes open.  You are going to see the word “affect” in countless places where it does not belong.  I am seeing it in science textbooks and news articles and it makes me nuts.  We may have to start burning books people.

Personally, I blame Microsoft, and I have evidence to support my claims.  Go into Word and type the sentence:  “The wind didn’t effect the speed of the car.”

Did you try it?  Did Word tell you that effect is the wrong word choice and you should use affect?  There is no emotional portion of either a car or the wind.  How many writers, textbook editor, and students get their grammar lessons from Microsoft? Perhaps we are trusting the company a little too much.  I know, you are getting nervous now.

So my theory, and it seems pretty sound from my safe house here in [deleted], is that Microsoft is performing social experiments on our beloved language.  I mean, what the frak, Centurians can’t be far behind.


7 Responses to "Cause an(d) Effect – A Conspiracy"

“Cause and affect” is not correct. However, “affect” is a verb producing effects.

As a noun, it references emotion, yes. But like “fly” it serves dual functions as noun and verb.

I have noticed it used synonymously with “effect” and it does bother the bejeezus out of me.

Matthew – you have impressed the daylights out of me just for knowing how to spell bejeezus. I bow to your mastery of the language.

Gotta be master of something. Universe was already claimed by that man-boy.

So few people appreciate the proper spelling of “bejeezus” these days.

I am intrigued by your Microsoft conspiracy theory. Where can I subscribe to your newsletter?

A mastery of the words effect and affect is a skill I am extremely proud of. It makes me feel important, like I am a part of an exclusive club. I always know which word should be used where.
I agree, few people can use the words properly.

(My nemesis is words with s and c, like license and necessary.)
I like the conspiracy theory. I can take it one further – Microsoft is hoping to eliminate some unique Canadian spellings – like colour, and honour and centre. All are showing errors for me.

I love this post.

One of the best books I have purchased ($5 from Office Depot) is “100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses & Misuses” from the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries. While I knew the basic difference between and usage of “effect” and “affect,” I learned also that “effect” can be used as a verb. (However, I haven’t seen its use as a verb in any text I’ve read.)

As explained in the book:
As a verb, ‘effect’ means “to bring about or execute.” Thus, using ‘effect’ in the sentence ‘These measures may effect savings’ implies that the measures will cause new savings to come about. But using ‘affect’ in a very similar sentence ‘These measures may affect savings’ could just as easily imply that the measures may reduce savings that have already been realized.

Sorry to post again, but just a comic link on misspellings, with visuals.

Okay, I’m pretty sure I’m now confused. I found this page that I thought was the clearest of all:

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