Impact

What would we do without impact? Whether describing a positive, a negative or anything in between, impact is a far-reaching, gut punch of a word. Everything we do has impact in some way—on people, society and the environment. But impact—like other mainstays of the CR lexicon—can also feel a bit lackluster when reduced to a concept we over-discuss, rather than illustrate.


How
impact falls
flat

It's overused

It's overused

Because it’s so neutral and useful, impact is all over the place. Yes, alternatives can feel exaggerated and greenwashy. But when a short piece repeats the phrase “reduce your impact” without variety, readers may start to tune out.

It's aloof

It's aloof

Impact has become such a staple of the business vocabulary that it can come off as cold and corporate. You rarely hear someone say, “I’d like to make an impact,” in everyday conversation.


Why
we use it
anyway

It's Vital

It's Vital

It’s hard to argue with impact. The term is impersonal enough that you can use it without risking exaggeration, and factual enough that you can count on impact to sail right through a legal review without pause.

You can feel it

You can feel it

WHAM! Like a head-on collision, impact demonstrates a powerful force to be reckoned with. Its strength and active voice grabs people and gets them to stand up and take notice.

It begs to be quantified

It begs to be quantified

That’s because impact signals something has changed, and as humans, we can’t help but ask, “How much?” Pair the word with some good, hard data, and impact goes a long way to convey how our actions have real consequences.

It goes both ways

It goes both ways

Many people use impact to describe the negative, but it can just as easily express the positive—like the benefits of volunteering on a community. Indeed, many companies have started to use “positive impact” to make this exact point.


What to do
instead

Mix it up

Mix it up

You might have to make a cheat sheet with all the synonyms for impact, but if it helps you engage your reader, then do it! If you can get beyond the word impact by using other colorful language or illustrative stories, you’ll be more persuasive.

Get emotional

Get emotional

People who choose to make an impact do so to feel good. When you get emotional and show the satisfaction that comes with getting a lower energy bill, or the joy of teaching a child a life-long skill, it’s easier for people to take your message to heart.


The backstory

The term anthropogenic—used to describe the environmental impact of human activity—was first used in a technical sense by Russian geologist Alexey Pavlov in 1922, and later by the British ecologist Arthur Tansley in reference to human influences on plant communities. Since then, impact has evolved and grown in popularity—as both a noun and adjective.

Submit your own and learn how AHA can help

Got a word that doesn’t work, but can’t think of another way to say what you mean? Leave us a comment and we just might add it to a future release. Problem solved!