Troublesome pairs.

You know how words can sound the same, be spelled differently and have different meanings? Some are homophones, but others are what my high school English teacher called “troublesome pairs.” And with good reason. They’re a source of both confusion and frustration. In fact, many of them still give me trouble to this day.

The words affect and effect are a perfect example. And while it may seem like memorization is the key to telling these two pests apart, there’s a much simpler trick: they’re actually two different parts of speech.

The guide When Words Collide lays it out pretty succinctly. Affect is almost always a verb that means “to influence or to pretend to have,” while effect is almost always a noun that means “result.” Yes, affect can be used as a noun and effect can be used as a verb (usually meaning “to bring about”), but the context in which they’d be used that way is fairly rare. So stick to this simple rule and keep effect from affecting you.

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