That there is a distinction between affect and effect is an aspect of English grammar that everyone knows but very few understand or use correctly. It isn’t necessarily that it’s a difficult distinction, we just haven’t been taught the difference! So, what exactly is it?
First thing’s first: generally speaking, “affect” is used as a verb, while “effect” is used as a noun. This means that “affect” is an action, while “effect” is an end result. A trick to help remember this is to match the first letter of affect/effect with either “action” or “end result”.
“Imagine Ruby pushed Raphael into a pond. Ruby affects where Raphael is standing. Raphael being wet is the effect of Ruby’s irresistible urge to push him into a pond.
Because Ruby performed an action, that signals the use of a verb: affect. The result, or effect, of that verb is “wetness,” a noun that is probably causing Raphael a whole lot of discomfort.”
Another example would be that pollution is affecting global temperatures, causing them to rise, which effects sea levels.
Of course, as with everything there are exceptions. These come about when affect is used as a noun and effect is used as a verb. When it is, effect as a verb means “to produce as an effect; bring about; accomplish; make happen” while affect as a noun means “feeling or emotion” (dictionary.com).
Unfortunately, there’s no simple qualifier to help us remember that exception – unlike with the “I before E” rhyme we all learned in grade school.
Let us know if this tip will affect your writing from now on!