Shotgun approach and scattershot approach

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Shotgun approach and scattershot approach are two versions of a popular idiom. 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)