- On August 20, 2014
Affect is a good, strong verb that’s been shoved aside by one best kept to talk about wisdom teeth.
In each of the sentences below, impact means to affect, a word far more pleasing to the senses than one that has in its definitions bad effect, hit something, great force, and for those aching wisdom teeth, firmly packed.
• While most of our fees remain unchanged, some changes may impact your account.
• Everyone at the event had been impacted by mental illness.
• The company’s decision to exit the server market impacts your cloud strategy.
Then there’s this sentence, in which impact could mean any number of things.
• Four health providers impact more than 80 percent of patients.
Impact could mean affect, treat, touch the lives of, or have an impact on what treatments 80 percent of patients receive. You get the picture: It’s vague.
And consider this sentence from an executive’s bio:
• He created a global initiative that raised 70 billion dollars for 2,100 programs that impacted 500 million people.
Had it read, “He created a global initiative that raised $70 billion for 2,100 programs that improved the lives of more than 500 million people,” his accomplishment would have jumped off the page.
Yes, language specialists like me need to keep in step with our so-called living language. And I do, particularly when new words describe new phenomena (think social media) or more ably or quickly describe something—for example, finalize, which shoved aside the more cumbersome make final. In the case of impact as a verb, however, we have words that work—ably and quickly.
Use impact as a noun and impacted when you’re talking about wisdom teeth. Otherwise, use affect, influence, or something else. Oh, and refrain from using impactful as an adjective. Please.