Impactful: Was that an Insult?


Hulk Smash - Impactful
The program was described as impactful.

What does that mean?

If your client or boss reported that your service was impactful, how would you feel? Elated, angry or confused?

The next time you consider slapping the impactful label on another person you might want to reconsider and pick a better word.

When we add the suffix “ful” to the end of a noun we create an adjective or adverb. The new word suggests that the subject or object being described is full of the qualities associated with the root noun.

For example: beautiful means full of beauty.

Therefore impactful must mean full of impact.

What does impact mean?

The word impact is most often used to describe a collision.

That might include:
two cars colliding in a traffic accident
a meteorite boring a crater on the surface of a planet
an assailant landing a fist in the face of his opponent

None of those sounds like something that you might want to be praised for.

What else could impact mean?
Let’s look at some of the synonyms for the word impact:

Bang, blow, brunt, clash, concussion, contact, crash, crunch, crush, encounter, hit, jar, kick, knock, percussion, pound, punch, ram, slap, smash...


So when someone describes your work of art as impactful were they suggesting that it was full of concussion, percussion or smash?

The rampaging Hulk could easily be described as impactful because he was full of smash.

If your dentist tells you about your impacted tooth, you'd better be ready for some painful dental surgery because it means there is something rotten in your mouth.

The word impact usually means “the consequence of a violent collision”. How could impactful ever be considered a desirable descriptor?

I hope that you enjoy my comments, tips, articles and presentations. But please don’t describe them as impactful.


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