Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Misusing words

Students of this blog know about how much I hate Bureaucratese.  Student will be happy to know that I found a new pet peeve:  incorrectly used words.  I think my favorite is "impact."

Impact and affect (and effect)

Many people (including, until recently, me) use impact when they should use affect.Impact doesn't mean to influence; impact means to strike, collide, or pack firmly.
Affect means to influence: "Impatient investors affected our rollout date."
And to make it more confusing, effect means to accomplish something: "The board effected a sweeping policy change."
How you correctly use effect or affect can be tricky. For example, a board can affect changes by influencing them and can effect changes by directly implementing them. Bottom line, use effect if you're making it happen, and affect if you're having an impact on something that someone else is trying to make happen.
As for nouns, effect is almost always correct: "Employee morale has had a negative effect on productivity." Affect refers to an emotional state, so unless you're a psychologist, you probably have little reason to use it.
So stop saying you'll "impact sales" or "impact the bottom line." Use affect.
(And feel free to remind me when I screw that up, because I feel sure I'll backslide.)

HT:  Kimberly


  1. Grammar in the English language has taken a back seat today. The world has become "affected" by texting acronyms, emojis, etc.
    The point is more geared towards affecting change, rather than "crashing" into it. When there is an emotional change to the economy, the relevant words should be used. When there is a "physical" happening, which pretty much would never happening, barring some kind of natural disaster, then again the proper words should be used.

    This may seem like a simple post, or to some an unimportant one, yet when we use certain words out of context confusion may occur. We should all be mindful of the grammar we use in the workplace.

  2. "Bottom line, use effect if you're making it happen, and affect if you're having an impact on something that someone else is trying to make happen."

    Should have used influence rather than impact here, if you're following your advice in the second sentence :)

  3. You should also yell at those kids to get off your lawn

  4. Mr. Foeb’s new pet peeve: is incorrectly used words.

    Well, this is one of my pet peeves as well. Misusing words, has become a common practice in our society these days. Mr. Foeb’s named just a few, such as impact affect, and effect. However I would like to provide a few more examples:

    Decimate really means to destroy ten percent of something. The prefix “dec” mean ten. However, most people think it means to totally destroy or annihilate.

    Disinterested really means neutral, however many people think it means bored. Consequently, uninterested means bored. If you are disinterested, you are stating you do not care about something.

    Peruse really means to observe in depth, however many people think it means to skim or to browse.

    Conversate is an unnecessary word and it does not mean anything, however people think it means to have a conversation. The word converse means to have a conversation.

    Like so many people, my husband, has a really bad habit of misusing words. In order to win an argument or a disagreement, he even makes up new words on a monthly basis. Nevertheless, this usually ends our discussion, and I quickly begin my google search, so I can show him that he misused the word. This always ends with us laughing at what he originally said, as well as creates an understanding what he truly meant.

  5. I too find the incorrect use of words to be a pet peeve. I strongly feel that is correlated to both social media and the rushing ways of people in today's world. With social media, we have become very accustomed to abbreviations. Furthermore, everyone today is in such a hurry, that using short hand has become very popular. As a result, being grammatically correct has began to go by the wayside.
    In my job, I have to document claim files frequently throughout the day. There are so many abbreviations that I use, I have begun using them in other areas of my life.
    It seems that instead of using a thesaurus to make our words more sophisticated, we are trying to find abbreviations which do the opposite.

  6. As many of my classmates have mentioned before me, Misused words is also a pet peeve of mine, specifically the word "literally."

    More often than not, I find that "literally" is not used literally but, rather, figuratively. Well then, doesn't it defeat the point of using the term "literally" at all? I find that the misuse of the word literally has led to the steady loss of affect (not impact) of the word. Literal meanings should be taken, well, literally, and the continued misuse of the word has constantly led me astray. Now I need to question that when someone is using the term “literally,” does this person really mean the true definition of “literal” or just the debauched secondary meaning of figuratively?