Shotgun approach and scattershot approach

Shotgun approach and scattershot approach are two versions of a popular idiom. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom shotgun approach or scattershot approach, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Shotgun approach and scattershot approach may describe a disorganized, haphazard approach to a problem or they may describe a wide, unfocused approach to a problem. Presumably, it is better to conserve one’s efforts in a focused manner; however, sometimes the area of focus is not apparent and a shotgun approach or scattershot approach is appropriate. The expressions shotgun approach and scattershot approach came into use at virtually the same time, during the mid-20th century, and most probably arose from the business of advertising. The terms reference the wide pattern of buckshot ejected from a shotgun, rather than the one bullet ejected from a rifle. The phrase shotgun approach is over twice as popular as the phrase scattershot approach.


The shotgun approach where you apply for anything and everything is never effective. (Forbes)

“We don’t have the capacity to monitor and implement the payroll reporting or the (other) reporting that will be required … give us some direction because it’s going to be hard taking a shotgun approach with three or four policies.” (Portland Press Herald)

“Cities do not build homes, and for years have endured whiplash from the state’s scattershot approach to passing housing laws that are often in direct conflict with each other and counterproductive to our shared goals to increase housing supply.” (Daily Republic)

“We treated different entities differently rate-wise, and our legal department said our rates could be challenged… we needed to move from a scattershot approach to more of a cost-of-service structure.” (Contractor Magazine)

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