Archive for the ‘Impact as a verb’ Tag

Impact   8 comments

Please, do not misuse “impact,”

substituting it for other

verbs, such as “influence” and “affect.”

Nobody has impacted me, or

else I would have known the effect

of the collision.  No crater

or wedging in someplace, “impact”

is not properly a good verb.






Posted April 16, 2019 by neatnik2009 in Language

Tagged with

Impact   Leave a comment

Or, Why We Should Influence and Affect Instead

I take the English language seriously.  When I see a

10 Items of Less

sign in a store, for example, I struggle to resist the temptation to comment that the sign should read

10 Items or Fewer.

Sometimes I choose not to resist the temptation.  I object to confusing “further” and “farther.”  It is not outside my experience to erupt into profanities in private while reading students’ writing in which they have used “it’s” (the contraction of “it is”) in lieu of “its” (a singular possessive pronoun).  I roll my eyes when I hear people say “very unique” of “most unique,” for degrees of uniqueness do not exist.  (For that matter, no woman is ever “very pregnant,” for degrees of pregnancy do not exist either.)  I understand the distinction between the subjective and objective cases well enough to realize that it is whom one knows, not who one knows, that matters.  Oxymorons such as “instant classic” and “new tradition” lead me to conclude that some people do not understand classics and traditions are old-certainly neither instant nor new.  And I cringe when I read or hear “impact” as a verb, in lieu of “influence” or “affect.”  I am a beneficiary of some excellent English teachers.

I realize that language changes.  I know, for example, that “prevent” used to mean “precede.”  It makes sense, after all; the combination of “pre” and “event” gives us “prevent.”  Yet I am no postmodernist.  No, I am an unabashed modernist (in the sense of Enlightenment modernism) with regard to language and other matters.  I affirm that words mean what they mean.  So, for example, when I consult the Merriam-Webster website and read that, according to those linguistic lords, I may use “literally” hyperbolically to mean “figuratively” without being incorrect, I object.  Most dictionaries describe, not proscribe, the meaning of words, as popular culture determines those definitions.  My inner linguistic Federalist chafes against the Jeffersonian Republican character of most dictionaries.

In old dictionaries “impact,” as a verb, means (A) to become wedged in somewhere and (B) to collide with something or someone.  Note, O reader, the physicality of the verb.  The main example of the correct use of “impact” as a verb in media that comes to my mind comes from Endgame (1997), an episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998).   Captain James, aboard the E.A.S. Agamemnon during the climactic battle against forces loyal to the dictatorial Earth Alliance President William Morgan Clark, shouts that missiles are

impacting on all sides.

I seldom hear and read correct uses of “impact” as a verb, however.

During the last few years I have noticed with much dismay and gnashing of teeth the increased frequency of people using “impact” as a verb (and, by extension, the gerund “impacting”) in popular culture, in casual conversation, on National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corporation, on academic websites, in job descriptions, and in academic writing.  In more than one book (of mine) I have crossed through “impact” and written “influence” or “affect.”  I have also written an anti-impact policy into my college syllabi.  Based on essays I have graded, I have concluded that many students have not read my syllabi.

I enjoy a certain elegance of language and encourage a healthy respect for the English tongue.  The evisceration of English that I have been witnessing for years disturbs me.  Perhaps the best I can do is (A) to encourage the proper use of language and (B) to model that use of English.  I do the best I can.




This is post #1500 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.


Posted June 30, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Language

Tagged with , ,

Dumbing Down Our Language   Leave a comment


Above:  Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, July 1942

Photographer = Lee Russell (1903-1986)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF34-073146-D


Language matters to me, for I am a man of letters.  I am also a grandson of an English teacher, so much of my grandmother’s concern and care for the English language has become my own.  Thus increasingly frequent assaults on the English language bother me.  Some examples follow:

  1. Confusing “it’s” and “its;”
  2. Confusing a possessive form of a word for its plural form;
  3. Using “impact” as a verb in the absence of an event resulting in a crater or wedging something or someone in somewhere;
  4. Writing or speaking of how someone “impacted” the world, community, et cetera, or of how “impactful” something is;
  5. Mistaking the singular form of a word which ends in -ist for its plural form; and
  6. Using the passive voice (in news reports, for example) when we know the identity of the actors.


  1. I do not want to read or write about laws were passed by a state legislature or how hot drinks were distributed at a coffee shop;
  2. Nobody has impacted me, but many people have influenced and affected me;
  3. Good books have proven influential and memorable, but never impactful;
  4. “Colonist” is singular and “colonists” is plural;” and
  5. Nothing has gone to the dog’s.

It’s true.

Our English language deserves more care and respect than many of those who speak and write her take with her.  Clear message-sending, a stage in effective communication, requires correct use of the language.  If what I have observed regarding the degradation of common English is a portent for the future, I weep for that time to come.