I Hope This Doesn’t Affect Our Friendship
Monday, October 24, 2011 Grammar and Mechanics
By Amy Kubista, Writing Specialist
When I was a junior in high school, there were two boys that I really liked. The first, Michael Hanson,* was intelligent, cute, and sweet. He played football, basketball, and the trumpet and had dreams of attending Harvard; he was the type of boy all parents hope and dream their daughter will date. Then there was Carter Denim.* He listened to punk rock, wore baggy clothes, and smoked cigarettes. He had a bad reputation. Both Michael and Carter made it known that they were crushing on me (yes, I just used crush as a verb). I was rather torn between the two; Michael seemed like the obvious choice, but there is something so appealing about the bad boy. After much deliberation, I chose Carter, but I felt awful about not choosing Michael, so I wrote him a note (because teenagers cannot be expected to actually talk to each other!) to let him down easy before he heard it from someone else.
I sat down to write the note, something like “I hope this doesn’t affect our friendship.” I’m sure we have all heard or used that phrase before, right? To me, it did not seem nearly as cliché at the time. Anyway, I got stuck on the word affect. I couldn’t figure out if it should be affect or effect, so I just wrote ffect and reminded myself to look it up and fill in the missing vowel later. I was really concerned that I would look stupid for not knowing the difference (everyone pays attention to spelling when writing notes as teenagers, right? This was the inner grammar nerd in me beginning to emerge).
I brought the note to school the next day, folded and shoved into the back pocket of my jeans. Carter came up and leaned on the locker next to mine, talked to me, and then walked me to my class. That was enough to let everyone know that Carter and I were “officially going out,” so after class I frantically searched for Michael in the hallway. When I found him, I slipped him the note, and as I was walking away, I realized I had never added the final vowel. I had just told Michael Hanson “I hope this doesn’t ffect our friendship.” I felt like such an idiot! If only I had taken the time to proofread.
This word confusion is common in writing. It is important to use the correct word, especially within academic writing (or breaking boys’ hearts) because it can change the intended meaning of the writer. In this case, affect is a verb that refers to the influence that something has on something else. Effect is a noun that refers to a result. For example, I hope this does not affect our friendship. The effect of my note was Michael would no longer talk to me.
For more examples of commonly confused words, such as accept/except or elude/allude, check out the Diction page on the Writing Center website. That way, whether you are writing an academic paper or rejecting a suitor, you will know the difference!