In its publications, the MLA follows various usage experts who recommend restricting the use of impact as a verb to only one of the several definitions you may find in a dictionary: “to strike forcefully” (“Impact”). A car may impact another car in a collision, for example. But we avoid using impact as a verb when the meaning is “to affect” or “to influence.” We would not write the following sentences:

Slow job growth impacts the overall economic outlook.

Changing social norms can impact language: some individuals have adopted the singular they because they wish to avoid gendered pronouns such as he and she.

In the examples above, other verbs that fit the meaning can easily be substituted:

Slow job growth affects the overall economic outlook.

Changing social norms can influence language: some individuals have adopted the singular they because they wish to avoid gendered pronouns such as he and she.

Work Cited

“Impact, Vb.” Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/
impact.

Photo of Erika Suffern

Erika Suffern

Erika Suffern is head of book publications at the MLA. She received degrees from Bard College and the University of Delaware and has worked in academic publishing since 2006. Before joining the MLA staff, she was associate director of the Renaissance Society of America and managing editor of its journal, Renaissance Quarterly.