Impactful

The adjective impactful, a late-20th-century coinage, is frequently derided as a meaningless buzzword, but the word is here to stay whether we like it or not, and many people find it useful.

The main gripe is that impactful is illogical because the suffix -ful means full of, and impact is not a quantity and hence can’t fill anything. The problems with this complaint are (1) that -ful also means having the quality of, and that (2) impact bears the secondary sense the power to make an impression, and such power can be a quantity.

Another complaint against impactful is that it tends to take the place of longer-established alternatives such as powerful and influential. While this might be true in some cases, the fact that impactful has become so entrenched in the language suggests that many people don’t find it to be an exact synonym of those words and that it has shades of meaning all its own.

Perhaps the best point against impactful is that it is frequently associated with bad business writing, but this is less and less the case as the word continues to make inroads into other types of writing.

Examples

Eliminating guesswork and aimless hunting for impactful eco-trends is a big part of keeping the expo relevant to the green movement. [Los Angeles Times]

It is through impactful experiences, where people are challenged to make sense of their new environment and accommodate to the difference. [The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence]

The wet clay serves as the play’s central metaphor – not a blazingly original one, perhaps – but it is lucid and impactful here. [Sydney Morning Herald]

The company received this award for two of its unique initiatives that are impactfully transforming lives and landscapes in rural India. [Business Ethics: An Indian Perspective, A.C. Fernando]

To answer this question, we can look at four examples from the two most important and impactful forestry activities on the land base. [Vancouver Sun]

The aftershocks of Nicholas Carr’s admirably impactful book The Shallows ripple on, spreading an uneasy suspicion that the internet is corroding our mental faculties. [Guardian]

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