Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Affect, Effect, Influence


The question of when to use effect and when, affect, came up today.  Since I have already dealt with this confusion in a past Good Word (see effect by clicking here), I won’t rehash it here.  However, it reminded me of another distinction that often goes unnoticed.

Over the last half of my 35-year teaching stint at Bucknell, the question of my influence over the thinking of students periodically emerged.  It became a rather vital question in the 60s and 70s and led to my thinking through the issue. 

By the end of the 70s I was telling my students that my intention was not to influence them but to affect them.  I was being paid to have some impact on their thoughts and abilities but I tried to avoid conveying my prejudices to them. (Indeed, I try to avoid prejudices in the first place.)

It seems to me that the verb influence implies prejudice in a way affect does not. To affect the thinking of someone, you either have a good or bad effect on it but you do not (necessarily) prejudice it. To influence an election is to tilt it one way or ther other; to affect it is to improve or undermine the process itself, not skewing it in any direction.

The distinction here is subtle and often overlooked but it is a good distinction for careful speakers and writers to work with.


One Response to “Affect, Effect, Influence”

  1. EarthySpirit Says:

    causality is a trinity.

    affect – (in)fluence – effect

    so thus we fluently send an affecting stream in order to effect change,they are in sorts polarities.

    However, the base symbology of the letter A and the letter E are highly distinctual.

    A is symbolic of enveloping a thing
    E is symbolic of a thing in the envelope

    thus we envelop a signal and then send to another envelope causing that envelope to change.

    AC i AE = AiE or AFE possibly, the symmbolmath without wording stands differently.

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