Affect Change or Effect Change – Which is Correct?

When you contact your state representative and convince him or her to vote against a piece of regressive legislation, are you effecting change or affecting change?

The answer is not as simple as it seems—both affect and effect can be used as a verb or a noun. These multiple meanings are the source of the confusion around this common phrase.

What is the Difference Between Affect Change and Effect Change?

In this post, I will compare effect change vs. affect change and use each of these phrases in a sentence that shows how the phrase looks in context.

I will also show you a useful memory tool that makes it simpler to choose either effect change or affect change for your writing.

When to Use Effect Change

affect or effect changeWhat does effect change mean? Effect change is a verb phrase that means to bring about a different state of affairs.

An activist might seek to effect change at a local level if she does not approve of the use of land resources in her hometown, for instance. Similarly, a member of the safety team at a manufacturing plant could seek to effect change in the way his coworkers use dangerous equipment.

Here are some more examples,

  • Many people want to bring down the government, but it might be more useful and practical to effect change by running for local office.
  • Everyone can effect change by choosing to recycle or not litter on the streets.
  • Individual investors can effect change this year on another topic: company policies governing when it should act to recover an executive’s compensation because of corporate wrongdoing. –The New York Times

When to Use Affect Change

effect a change or affect a changeWhat does affect change mean? Affect change is an incorrect version of the phrase effect change.

In most contexts, affect is a verb, while effect is a noun, so it’s easy to see why many writers default to affect in this verb phrase. Still, effect can be used as a verb, where it means to bring about something (like change). Affect can also be used as a noun, like in the phrase positive affect, which is basically technical shorthand for a good mood in social science research.

As you can see from the chart below, which charts affect change vs. effect change over time, effect change is the much more commonly used version of this phrase.

affect change versus effect change

Of course, this makes sense, since effect change is the correct spelling of the prhase. Affect change still appears, although it’s not clear in what contexts writers are using this phrase.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Counterintuitive though it may seem, effect change is the correct version of this phrase. When effect is used as a verb, it means to bring something about. The phrase effect change therefore means to bring something about.

Effect change starts with the letter E, just like the verb elicit. The shared E between these words is your clue that effect change is the correct phrase.

Summary

Is it affect change or effect change? Effect change is a verb phrase that means to bring about change. Affect change is a common mistake based on the normal parts of speech of affect and effect.

To summarize,

  • Effect change is the correct spelling.
  • Affect change is an error.