What’s Wrong With “Impactful”?

Do you say impactful or influential?

  • Impactful means “manifesting a great effect or impact.”
  • Some critics reject “impactful” as illogical or unnecessary.
  • If you want to avoid “impactful,” use a synonym such as “influential.”

Are all the words in the dictionary equal? Some people feel that certain words are better than others. In particular, they find fault with impactful. Discover why this word gets picked on and decide for yourself if the criticism is valid.

First, how is impactful defined? According to Oxford Dictionaries, impactful is an adjective that means “having a major impact or effect.” Notice its use in these quotes from the media:

But since it’s the summer, and since we can, here’s a look at arguments for the most impactful player and coach in each conference’s hunt for a spot in the sport’s final four.
Sports Illustrated

You don’t just want to be another think tank. Everything we do should be impactful, but we don’t have to do every impactful thing. We have to pick our spots, and then be really strong in those areas.

Though many use impactful, some people refuse. On Quora, one commenter called it “a mangled [derivative] of the word “impact” . . . that has been smuggled in through the back door of our collective consciousness.” Why mangled? Other adjectives such as successful and careful are formed by adding the suffix -ful to a noun. The suffix simply means “full of or having the quality of.” To a native speaker’s ear, “full of doubt” sounds fine, so doubtful is an uncontroversial adjective. “Having the quality of beauty” sounds fine, so beautiful is acceptable, too. However, “full of impact” and “having the quality of impact” sound strange. For some, this is sufficient reason to reject impactful. Dictionary.com, one of the first dictionaries to welcome impactful with open arms, rebuts this argument by pointing out that -ful also can be interpreted as “having” or “characterized by,” as in the word lawful. After all, a lawful act isn’t “full of law.”

One blogger who calls herself the Sassy Librarian argues that is an unnecessary addition to the English language: “When some advertising dolt was groping for the word “effective” or “influential,” “impactful” popped into her/his head then tumbled out of her/his mouth.” In short, she argues that impactful was a frivolous invention because the words effective and influential fulfill the same communicative purpose. Let’s define those two terms from the same source. Then, ask yourself whether they are exact synonyms of impactful or not.

Effective means “successful in producing a desired or intended result.” Could something have a major effect without achieving the intended result? Definitely. Therefore, effective is not an exact synonym of impactful. Influential, on the other hand, means “having great influence on someone or something.” Influential seems quite close to impactful. In fact, the same dictionary defines impact as “a marked influence.”

What do you think? Does impactful stand shoulder to shoulder with the other words in the dictionary or should it be removed and forgotten? If you feel uneasy about its origins, opt for influential. However, if you decide to use impactful, you will be part of making it an established part of the English language.

The post What’s Wrong With “Impactful”? appeared first on Grammarly Blog.

from Grammarly Blog https://www.grammarly.com/blog/impactful/


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