Everyone here has their little language bugbears. The cliché, the common spelling error, the generally-accepted-but-technically-wrong turn of phrase.
Some of us go on about our (least) favourite bugbears so much that they have become personally associated with us. If someone finds an example of one, they’ll wave it silently in front of your face with a pained expression. Or they’ll email it to you with no explanation and something cryptic in the subject line.
Until recently, mine was conditional phrases like this:
If you want to get more information, our helpline is open 24 hours a day.
Nonsense. The helpline is open 24 hours a day regardless of whether you want to get more information. You see this kind of thing all the time. Or at least I do. Of course it usually doesn’t matter. But it’s sloppy, and it makes the reader do more work than is absolutely necessary. If the reader is doing you a favour by reading your stuff in the first place, don’t make them do any more work than necessary to get through it.
It’s a small thing, but that’s what these bugbears are. Small but annoying.
Now I have a new favourite. Like “going forward”, this seemed to come from nowhere, overnight. Suddenly everyone’s using it and pretending that’s it’s perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable. Well it’s not.
It’s the use of the word impact.
I am convinced, with no evidence whatsoever, that the problem comes from people not being sure whether to write the verb ‘to affect’ or the noun ‘effect’. So they write ‘impact’ for both. It’s not too bad for ‘effect’, though it’s usually a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s using impact as a verb that bothers me. It doesn’t mean ‘to affect’. It means to strike forcefully or to pack together. So whilst a boxer might impact another and knock him out in round one, that won’t impact the TV schedules.
I just googled ‘impacting‘. 5 out of the first 7 results used the word incorrectly. Social media is not impacting the way we email. The BP oil spill has not impacted restaurants. Climate change is not impacting biodiversity. Acidity is not impacting oyster shell growth. And iPad is not impacting the eBook industry.
I could go on and on. You just know I could.