Make Your Editor Cry: Impacted vs. Impact

Make Your Editor Cry: Impacted vs. Impact

Confession. This one drives me a little bit crazy. The word impacted is an adjective. The word impact is a noun. Yet sentences such as the following are more and more common:

The news visibly impacted John.

Other than taxes, this word impacted should only apply to the medical fields. The word impacted is an adjective, not a verb. With respect to taxes, the adjective impacted means of, relating to, or being an area (such as a school district) providing tax-supported services to a population having a large proportion of federal employees and especially those living or working on tax-exempt federal property. Yeah. Boring, I know.

As it relates to dentistry, when a tooth is impacted it is wedged tightly against another tooth. As it relates to bowels and other such things, it means that–let’s just say matter–is deeply entrenched or not easily changed or removed. While a tooth or a bowel can be impacted, little else can.

None of these meanings has anything to do with the noun “impact” which means the force of impression of one thing on another, or having a significant or major effect upon something.

So, in our earlier example, the news can have a visible impact on John. It could also have an emotional impact, a spiritual impact, or a physical impact. It cannot ever “impacted” John.

Incorrect:

The news visibly impacted John.
The study outlined how the construction project impacted the environment.
Meteorites impacted areas on the coastal plain.

Correct:

The news had a visible impact on John.
The study outlined the environmental impacts of the construction project.
The panel discussed financial aid in impacted areas on the coastal plain.
Dentists treated John’s impacted wisdom teeth.
Doctors treated John’s impacted bowel.

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