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Impact or affect?

30 Jul

Here is a pair of words that are often used in reports and academic work; they do have a subtle difference which it’s worth noting and remembering.

To affect something is to have any effect on it, to make a difference (remember the difference between affect and effect).

To have an impact (on) something means to have a strong effect on it (of course, an impact also occurs when something comes forcibly into contact with something else – in a collision or wedged and crushing like an impacted wisdom tooth).

So everything that has an impact on something has an effect on it, affects it, but not everything that affects something else has a strong enough effect to be an impact.

We also have the tricky issue of the phrasal verb impact on – “low interest rates have impacted on saving”. People tend not to like new phrasal verbs, and this one is seen as business jargon. If you’re tempted to use “have impacted on”, try “have had an impact on” instead: you know you’re safe with that one

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 

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