Let’s Stop Saying “Impactful”

A hopeful plea for the death of tech’s most pointless word. posted on

BuzzFeed FWD contributor and Person Who Is Good With Words Maria Bustillos made a VERY important demand on Twitter this morning:

Yes. YES. YESSSS! Impactful is the pivot of adjectives. There are times when you just want a classier or more specific word to describe something, like “sublime” for “beautiful” or “riveting” for “interesting.” Impactful is one of those “better” words, except instead of conveying extra depth of meaning it conveys that you are boring, or that you read a lot of political news, or that you work in tech. Tech people LOOOOVVEEE using this word:

The word they were looking for here, every time, was “powerful.” Maybe “important.” You can’t be full of impact any more than you can be full of weight. That’s why we don’t say “weightful.”

That’s grammatical nitpicking, though, and admittedly not a huge deal. Words are for communicating meaning, and it’s pretty easy to guess what people means when they use this word. Therein lies the real problem, though: when people say “impactful” they make you want to stop listening. The moment this tainted word passes through someone’s lips is the moment they become much harder to listen to. It’s a “synergy” or an “enterprise” or a “social media presence.” Impactful is to its more appropriate synonyms what Google search ads are to actual results.

At some point this word, which has been around for decades, became a part of — no, emblematic of — awful tech jargon. So let’s please pivot to something else, thanks. It would make me full of thanks. Thankful.

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