As I sit in a professional presentation given by a professional organization, I once again cringe when I hear the word “impactful” leave the speaker’s mouth. Well this isn’t the first time I’ve heard someone use “impactful” this week. It seems to pop up in business meetings and conversations all the time…more and more every day. As a former English teacher, I wince when I hear it because I don’t believe it is even a word. However, educated people all over the place are using it, so I am now on a mission to find out…
Good old Webster does not define it as its own word, but indeed does list it as an adjective under “impact.” Come on, Webster, really? Okay, my next favorite source…Urban Dictionary says “A non-existent word coined by corporate advertising, marketing and business drones to make their work sound far more useful, exciting and beneficial to humanity than it really is. This term is most frequently used in “team building” seminars and conferences in which said drones discuss the most effective ways to convince consumer zombies to purchase crap they clearly do not need or even want.”
Well, there it is. Urban Dictionary defines the word as a “non-existent word.” I’m even more confused now so I go to wordorgins.org. Wordorgins.org also says that “impactful” is not a word however it is “simply a derivation of the common word impact.” So, it’s a derivation, but not a word?
After a good bit of googling I found an answer that I can live with from Paul Brians, author of the book Common Errors in English Usage. Brians says, “Many people in business and education like to speak of things that have an impact as being “impactful,” but this term does not appear in most dictionaries and is not well thought of by traditionalists. Use “influential” or “effective” instead.” I am going to take Brians’ advice and I hope other people do too. Preserve the English language (what very little we have left of a proper language) and use “influential” or “effective” instead of the non-word “impactful.”