Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I stumbled onto a US Congress representative’s website with what I think is a blatant and very visible mistake:

John D. Dingell website

Namely, the sentence in yellow, “How does the population change effect our district”. I am surprised to see this error in such a high-profile and (probably) thoroughly checked webpage. So, I wonder: how common is this exact error (effect vs. affect)? Have the usage of the two really started to merge, so that we should consider them as equivalent?

PS: yes, I know the dictionary says they have different meaning; I'm asking about usage and the evolution of the language.

share|improve this question
add comment

6 Answers 6

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The [mis]usage is quite common, but the two have not started to merge and should not be considered equivalent. Most lists of common vocabulary mistakes list affect vs. effect among the most frequently encountered.

Don't assume that what you see on a U.S. Representative's web page is grammatically correct or even good English. Even well-intentioned, literate people make what I call "spell-check" errors. That is, a spell-checker will validate both effect and affect and even grammar checkers may not flag their misuse since they can both appear as nouns or as transitive verbs. (It didn't get flagged by the computer? Get it on the web page!)

Proofreading is something almost no one does by hand (or eye) anymore. Too bad.

share|improve this answer
4  
+1 for the "don't assume" - it was, after the all, the US government that censured one of their own for using the word "niggardly" –  HorusKol Jan 20 '11 at 23:02
    
@HorusKol: The issue there being that your average reader is usually unfamiliar with the word niggardly and assumes it is some form of racial slur, rather than being from the Norse stem than also gives us niggle. –  Orbling Jan 21 '11 at 0:43
    
At least in the press industry, there still are professional spellcheckers. They might not do it for an US Representative's website, but the PR person ought to know better! –  F'x Jan 21 '11 at 10:08
add comment

A short answer is it's pretty darn common. In fact, it falls under the most common spelling errors: Read more: Affect and Effect: Commonly Confused Words.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I, too understand that affect vs. effect is still strictly defined and certainly does not fall under the "forgivable because of linguistic evolution" category. The website certainly uses effect objectively incorrectly.

share|improve this answer
add comment

It's quite common. I use a simple mnemonic to remind myself: RAVEN. Remember, Affect Verb, Effect Noun.

share|improve this answer
5  
I can't help but point out that both words can function as nouns or verbs, although they're more commonly used as you describe. –  Dusty Jan 21 '11 at 0:19
add comment

Remember though, that effect can be a verb too. It means to cause or implement. So in this case, it would still be a huge stretch to be correct ("how does the census implement our district?" no.) Affect can also be a noun, but it means emotion, so it's very rarely used.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'm completely convinced that confusion over when and how to use affect as a verb has led directly to the rise of impact as a replacement for it. A development that drives me up the proverbial wall. Oddly, though, I read in passing that contact was not very long ago considered exclusively as a noun, and that its emergence as a verb also bothered some purists.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.