The short answer as to whether to use affect change or effect change is that it is always effect change, not affect change. But I’ll explain why and give you some tips on how to remember which one is correct.
Affect and effect are two words that are easily mistaken for another. One is a verb and the other is a noun. For the most part anyway because there are, naturally, exceptions. Generally speaking however, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.
Affect (verb) usually means “to influence.” Effect (noun) usually means “a result.” There are other definitions for these words, but those are the most common usages.
Thus usually someone is affected by a change in their lives but they also feel the effects.
However, affect can also be a noun, used in relation to emotions in the body, but this tends to be obsolete. On the flip side, effect can be a verb, when used with an object. I’ll talk more about that later.
So when it comes to affect change or effect change, which is the correct way to say it?
When to Use Effect Change
While effect is a noun, effect change is a verb phrase meaning “to bring about change.” The phrase is used in a plethora of disciplines, from change in the government, companies, industry, schools, and other communities.
It all stems from the desire to “bring about a result or change.”
Yes, it is a bit weird, but effect change is the correct phrase. This is the instance of effect being used as a verb with an object.
Example Sentences using Effect Change
Used in a sentence, the verb phrase effect change looks something like: “She wished to effect change in her local government, so she ran for office.”
Another example is: “He wanted to effect change in his community by volunteering.”
It’s a bit of an English rule exception, using a noun in a verb phrase. Though, such usages are becoming more and more common these days. English is full of idiosyncrasies like this.
Why is Affect Change Incorrect?
Affect change is not the correct verb phrase, even though affect is a verb.
Affect is used by itself as a verb with the infinitive form being to affect.
The verb phrase is effect change with an e. Anytime you see it as affect change, it is a misunderstanding of the verb phrase.
How to Remember the Difference
Some people remember that it’s effect change because it’s backwards. They know that affect is the verb, and effect is the noun, but effect change is the correct verb phrase.
Another way to think about it is that the phrase effect change means “to bring something about.” The word elicit has a similar meaning and both elicit and effect start with e.
Another way to think about it is effecting change (verb phrase) causes effects (noun) as a result of change.
Affecting Change vs Effecting Change, Can they Both Be Correct?
Can affecting change be correct? Well, back in the mid-20th century, it was used more often than it is now and it was considered correct. But as time went on effect change became the commonly accepted phrase.
Language does this, consider all the various spellings that middle and early modern English had until words and phrases were standardized.
Further uses of affecting change are the result of either older materials before effecting change dominated, or the result of people who thought they understood the difference between the two phrases but ended up getting it wrong in the end.
That said, you may also see affect change not as a verb phrase. In these instances, it would be verb with a noun following it with the ultimate meaning of having an impact as an extension of affect’s meaning “to influence.”
The correct term is effect change. Yes, that is the noun effect in the verb phrase effect change, but that is the correct usage. Affecting change is a misunderstanding of the phrase. When writing, be sure to use effect change or effecting change.
English can be very tricky, to both people who have grown up learning it and people who are learning English later as a second or third language. Nevertheless, the language is always evolving.
Effecting change is the more correct phrase, affect change will likely get someone coming after you trying to explain the differences between affect and effect.
You can remember that effect change is correct by:
a) knowing that it’s the noun in the verb phrase
b) remembering that both effect and elicit start with e
c) recognizing that effect change is effect (verb) when used with object: change.