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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Word Crusades

I am on a lonely, probably futile, personal crusade to eradicate the use of “impact” as a verb throughout this planet. No book I have written or edited contains it (unless the author snuck it back into the manuscript when I wasn’t looking, or I dozed off—as I’m prone to do in the presence of such writing—and missed it).

Impaction is a medical condition that afflicts molars and intestines; “impact” as a noun may appropriately describe the unwelcome assault of a bomb, a car, or a punch; or in general the effect of one thing on another. But over the years I see it everywhere as a verb: “Always be aware of how your behavior impacts others,” “The marketing team hadn’t considered how the campaign would impact the budget,” “Women’s lives have been significantly impacted by the feminist movement.” Even if it’s correct, who could learn from writing like this, much less love it?

That’s my beef with “impact.” I think it’s a classic example of unthinking writing or (worse) intellectual timidity in which the writer fears to take a stand by choosing a word of true descriptive power. Call it a “speed bump word”—one a writer throws in there to quickly get over the mental speed bump of having to weigh more descriptive, hardworking options that could amplify the reader’s understanding; for example: affect, alter, increase, promote, magnify, extend, enlarge, broaden, sharpen, quicken, decrease, lessen, diminish, depress, erode, reduce, narrow, shrink, or devastate. Since we have such words in this marvelous language, why not paint with all the colors at our disposal?

I know, I know . . . get a life. But before I go out to find one, I have to ask: Is anyone else on a Word Crusade?

Copyright (c) 2010 by Toni Sciarra Poynter


  1. Yes. 'Process' To process. A process. Going through my process. The verb is often turned into a double verb as in 'I am processing'

    'On the same page' We need to replace this. It is getting old. Let's come up with a new phrase to connote similar wavelength; like minded; same vibe.

  2. Here is one that I heard a while ago on a newscast: "We are efforting . . . ," meaning that they were attempting to get more information on the story, for example. My husband and I both looked at each other and said, "What???" We're still joking about it. But it really wasn't anything to joke about.

  3. I learned how annoying misuse of "practice" and "practise" can be today. I'd never been taught the difference before, but now it annoys me.

    "Practice with a 'c' is the noun, i.e. a practice of doctors. Practise with an 's' is the verb to practise something." - Tim Eagling