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Common Word Errors: Accept/Except and Affect/Effect

Source: Purdue University Online Writing Lab


Two very common words in Military writing are homophone pairs accept/except and affect/effect.  Since homophones sound alike, doesn't mean they share the same meaning.  Below is an except resourced from Purdue University and Merriam Webster.

Accept and Except

Meanings for the most common uses:

ac•cept (transitive verb) [Middle English, from Middle French accepter, from Latin acceptare, frequentative of accipere to receive, from ad- toward + capere to take]

1a: to receive willingly <accept a gift> b: to be able or designed to take or hold (something applied or added) <a surface that will not accept ink>

2: to give admittance or approval <to accept her as one of the group>

3a: to endure without protest or reaction <accept poor living conditions> b: to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable <the idea is widely accepted> c: to recognize as true; believe <refused to accept the explanation>
4a: to make a favorable response to <accept an offer> b: to agree to undertake (a responsibility) <accept a job>
5: to assume an obligation to pay; also: to take in payment <we don't accept personal checks>


1. ex•cept (preposition) [Originally past participle; see meaning 3, below] with the exclusion or exception of <open daily except Sundays>

2. ex•cept (conjunction)

1: on any other condition than that; unless <you face punishment except if you repent>
2: with the following exception <was inaccessible except by boat>
3: only (often followed by that) <I would go except that it's too far>

Meanings for less common uses:

3. ex•cept (transitive verb) [Latin exceptus, past participle of excipere to take or draw out, to except; ex- out + capere to take]

To take or leave out (anything) from a number or a whole; to exclude; to omit <if we only except the unfitness of the judge, the trial was a perfect enactment of justice> <Adam and Eve were forbidden to touch the excepted tree (past participle)>

Affect and Effect

Meanings for the most common uses:


1. af•fect (transitive verb) [Middle English, from affectus, past participle of afficere]

to produce an effect upon, as a: to produce a material influence upon or alteration in <paralysis affected his limbs> b: to act upon (as a person or a person's mind or feelings) so as to bring about a response; influence



1. ef•fect (noun) [Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, from Latin effectus, from efficere to bring about, from ex- out (of) + facere to make, do]

1a: purport; intent <the effect of their statement was to incite anger> b: basic meaning; essence <her argument had the effect of a plea for justice>
2: something that inevitably follows an antecedent (as a cause or agent) <environmental devastation is one effect of unchecked industrial expansion>
3: an outward sign; appearance <the makeup created the effect of old age on their faces>
4: accomplishment; fulfillment <the effect of years of hard work>
5: power to bring about a result; influence <the content itself of television is therefore less important than its effect>
6 plural: movable property; goods <personal effects>
7a: a distinctive impression <the color gives the effect of being warm> b: the creation of a desired impression <her tears were purely for effect> c (1): something designed to produce a distinctive or desired impression, usually used in plural (2) plural: special effects
8: the quality or state of being operative; operation <the law goes into effect next week>

in effect: in substance; virtually <the committee agreed to what was in effect a reduction in the hourly wage>
to the effect: with the meaning <issued a statement to the effect that he would resign>


Meanings for less common uses:


2. af•fect (transitive verb)

1: to make a display of liking or using; cultivate <affect a worldly manner>
2: to put on a pretense of; feign <affect indifference, though deeply hurt>

3. af•fect (noun) [pronunciation: stress on first syllable, unlike verb forms of this word]

the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes <he displayed a distressing lack of affect>



2. ef•fect (transitive verb)

1: to cause to come into being <the citizens were able to effect a change in government policy>
2a: to bring about often by surmounting obstacles; accomplish <effect a settlement of a dispute> b: to put into operation <the duty of the legislature to effect the will of the citizens>

Usage: The confusion of the verbs affect and effect not only is quite common but has a long history. The verb effect was used in place of affect (1, above) as early as 1494 and in place of affect (2, above) as early as 1652. If you think you want to use the verb effect but are not certain, check the definitions here. The noun affect is sometimes mistakenly used for the noun effect. Except when your topic is psychology, you will seldom need the noun affect.

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Page Added on: 29 December 2005

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