The IMPACT Epidemic

The use of the word IMPACT is so common these days that few people know that they are using it wrong most of the time. Bloggers, tweeters, media reporters, as well as students, are using the word IMPACT for everything from worldwide political and social issues to describing the effect of a hang nail. This simplified and incorrect use of IMPACT is actually a weak and ineffective way of communicating. The English language is powerful, and using this one word for a wide range of circumstances actually undermines our communication efforts.

How did this happen?

The overuse of the word IMPACT has most likely arisen due to doubt or confusion about how to use the words affect (verb) and effect (noun) because of the pesky, rarely used, and minor form of effect as a verb, which literally means “to bring about or put into effect”.

For example: She effected change in the workplace.

Honestly, who actually says anything like that EVER? This usage is so uncommon that we need not even worry about it. Therefore, one way to strengthen your speech and writing is to scratch that worry off your list and confidently put affect (verb) and effect (noun) back to work again.

What does IMPACT really mean?

IMPACT as a noun
a forceful collision

For example: People on the opposite coast felt the IMPACT of the asteroid.

IMPACT/ED as a verb
to forcefully come into contact with

For example: The meteorite IMPACTED the earth.

These two forms should be used only with violent celestial bodies. Unless you are an astrophysicist, you will probably never need these words.

IMPACTED as an adjective
swollen, stuck, wedged,
and crushed together

For example: Fred was grateful for emergency surgery on his IMPACTED wisdom tooth.

Use this word only for severe dental troubles or nasty bowel issues.

IMPACTFUL as an adjective

Heaven help you if you ever use this word.


Don’t even think about it unless you want to destroy all hope of becoming an intelligent, trustworthy person.

How to avoid IMPACT


Instead of
The speech really had an IMPACT on me.
(A forceful collision? Are you OK?)

I hope to have an IMPACT on the group.
(A forceful collision? Are you prepared to deal with the insurance claims?)

Make an IMPACT! Join our team!
(A forceful collision? Sounds like a dangerous, painful job!)

The speech caused a paradigm shift in my thinking.
Her attitude has a positive effect on the kids.
Make a difference! Join our team!


Instead of
The speech really IMPACTED (forcefully came in contact with?) my life!

The speech offended me, and I will never pay to listen to such a speaker again!
The speech transformed my life! I’m a new person!
The speech revealed insightful ways to manage my money.

Here’s a noun/verb combo.
Instead of
The mortar rounds left a devastating IMPACT on the landscape.

Do this
The mortar rounds devastated the landscape.

Drive your sentences with strong, active verbs, and you’ll be a better writer than most in one simple move.


Don’t ever lose your mind and give in to this temptation.
What did you find most IMPACTFUL about the speech?
She was such an IMPACTFUL speaker!

I’ve seen it happen, and it makes me worry about the author’s supply of oxygen.

Healthy, thriving brain cells will say something like this
What did you find most revealing about the speech?
What about the speech was most meaningful to you?
How did the speech affect you?
The remarkable speaker inspired me!

Here’s a handy chart

To make life easier, I have made a handy chart so that you may swiftly use your communication super powers for good and not for evil.


Leave a note in the comments if you think of other words I should add to the list!

Click here for a downloadable PDF version.

People use the word IMPACT so often and for such a wide range of reasons, it is quickly losing its meaning and becoming an empty word much like “awesome” and “amazing”. Avoid the use of IMPACT by making an effort to clarify what you truly mean. Without the weak use of IMPACT, your messages will more effectively reach your audiences’ hearts and minds.

What's buzzing in your bonnet?