“Impactful” Is NOT a Real F%#@ing Word!!

Dear Whoever has decided to include the word “impactful” in online dictionaries,

This is a fake word. Such words muddy the meaning and nuance of real words. Yes, I understand that language, word use and word meanings change and develop over time; new words pop up in our lexicon continuously. And there are words that are created in conversational settings that can convey the essence of the speaker’s meaning when the right word isn’t on the tip of the tongue. Usually these words or phrases are intended to be humorous or terrifying, but were never meant to appear in print or be taken seriously as a proper word. “Ginormous,” “Paris-Hilton,” “Vancouver-Will-Win-the-Stanley-Cup-in-2011” are three examples.

However, “impactful” is not a real word and should have NEVER appeared in print. Though an online dictionary has the following entry, I cry “FOUL.”


Adjective: Having a major impact or effect: ‘an eye-catching and impactful design.'”

As you may have inferred from the description of this ersatz word, the hint at the word’s origin lies in this definition’s example phrase, “eye-catching…design.” This is a word that was created in an advertising company. Yes, advertising. The same people who brought us: “lite,” “nite,” “drinkability,” “powercision,” “signage,” I could go on.

People create such words when they are at a loss for the correct word and are too lazy/pressed for time/proud to look it up in a real dictionary or ask someone for help. So when some advertising dolt was groping for the word “effective” or “influential,” “impactful” popped into her/his head then tumbled out of her/his mouth.   The other marketing/business goons in the room, upon hearing this new word, were either: too dumb to know that word isn’t real; too confused, to the point of distraction when the word was uttered, to speak up and correct this person; clearly thankful that there was someone in the room who was dumber than s/he; or not paying any attention.

People, let us not reward other’s ignorance by allowing these words to be included in our language. Let’s make people work for the language in order to truly understand word meanings and nuances. This is a difficult language, yes. But, if we band together, we can be an eradicational* force to end this madness.


The Sassy Librarian

*”eradicational” is not a real word, either. Sadly, I’m still worried about its spelling.


About The Sassy Librarian

Librarian. Writer. Curmudgeon.
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20 Responses to “Impactful” Is NOT a Real F%#@ing Word!!

  1. Karl O says:

    I find impactful a useful word in that it clearly marks its users as people I want nothing to do with. With whom I want nothing to do. Whatever. Plenty of real words fall into this category also, depending on usage. People who talk about actualizing their potential for instance… 🙂 Hmm. Maybe actcualize isn’t a real word either come to think of it. Still. Serves a purpose dunnit? 😀

  2. Col says:

    So what is the “correct” word to use instead?

  3. Asdf says:

    “Impact” is a noun which sees a fair amount of use in our language, so why not have an adjective form of it? E.g. As with ‘beauty’ and ‘beautiful.’ It just seems intuitive. Also, ‘real’ words haven’t been fixed since the beginning of language, they had to “tumble out of someone’s mouth,” then get accepted by exposure. And disliking it because it had a corporate origin just seems like guilt by association to me. I just respectfully disagree, no intention to start a linguistics flame war here, haha.

  4. Michael says:

    Hey there, maybe you can help me out. Been searching for a substitute for this word (one which is not so controversial), but I can’t find one which really conveys what I feel this word does. I saw your suggestions, “influential” and “effective”, but they don’t seem to impart what I’m really trying to say. Here is a sentence that I have recently used it in:

    (In the context of the immorality of burning your countries flag)

    “Symbolism is real, and impactful- and people have indeed died “under this banner”, as they themselves would say.”

    1. I don’t want to use “effective”, because it implies that symbolism is, perhaps, being “wielded” here; i.e. being used as propaganda, or to manipulate people.

    2. I don’t want to use “influential”, because that is a passive word. I don’t want to say that symbolism has only passive influence.

    I use “impactful” here with this definition in mind: Actively powerful and effecting change.
    Is there another word that I can use here?

    • Sorry to take so long. How about “powerful”?

      • Scott says:

        I know this is an old thread, but I just can’t help but respond to the suggestion that the word “impactful” can be replaced by “powerful” or even “effective”. These are nowhere close to synonyms. “Powerful” can only be a reasonable substitute for “impactful” if “power” and “impact” are synonyms. Clearly they are not. And “effective” has the implication of having achieved a desired result. f I dropped my pants and mooned someone, my action would have an impact, but I doubt you’d describe it as having “power”. And if my desired outcome was to make you laugh, and you instead got angry, would my action be any less “impactful”? Yet it could not be said to be “effective” since the result achieved was opposite of my intent.

        The fact is, whether it suits your overly sensitive grammarian sensibilities or not, “impactful” has a unique meaning that is evident in its etymology (i.e., “characterized by forceful impression). There are few, if any, reasonable substitutes. “Impact” is neither positive nor negative. It is simply an acknowledgement of a stimulus. It is the “thud” that happens when you drop a brick to the ground. Adjectives like “memorable” or “evocative” are in the ballpark, but they lack a certain nuance of meaning. “Impactful” is simply an acknowledgment of whether an action resulted in a measurable result without casting judgment on whether that result is good or bad, transient or persistent. In other words, it’s a generic term with purpose.

  5. David S says:

    If a word is meaningful and many people throughout the English-speaking world use it, why can’t it be a word. You seem surprisingly quick to condemn other people’s motives for using “new” words. Why does the English language, as it has been codified and narrowed by lexicographers and grammarians, trump the language as it is used by people in everyday life? Almost every modern language was spoken long before it was written. People have communicated effectively for eons without being able to read or recite rules of grammar. By what rules would you allow ANY new word to enter the English language? Shakespeare certainly couldn’t be tolerated. That misguided, uneducated fool wrote any manner of “new” words that had only existed in conversation, or heaven fordbid, his own mind. Why do we encourage such laggards by endlessly studying and performing their writings?

    • Hi David,

      Sorry to take so long to reply. (You probably don’t care)

      As I only briefly touched on in the post “Yes, I understand that language, word use and word meanings change and develop over time; new words pop up in our lexicon continuously.” Words are created constantly to create meaning, capture place or a mood when nothing else, no other words, will do. This is sometimes done to beautiful effect.

      “`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
      All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.” ~Lewis Carroll “Jabberwocky”

      Were new words not created our language would stagnate and our ability to communicate would be hobbled.

      However, I ask you this. In your heart of hearts, would you place “impactful” with the pantheon of brilliant, created words brought to by us poets and writers? Would you put “impactful” next to Shakespeare’s “bedazzled,” “dishearten,” or “swagger”? Pardon me for my “rant” but if you were you to so, I’d find that “laughable”.

      “Impactful” is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a word. So many other words or combinations of words work better to describe what the user means but, at the time, may have been unable to come up with when groping for a word. Thus, in my mind, “impactful” fails to be a real word and only makes the user sound pretentious.

      ~The Sassy Librarian

      P.S. If you’re a writer, you should know better.

      P.P.S. For the time, Shakespeare had a solid education.

      • David S says:

        Three points:

        First, your use of the words “in my mind” is very telling. The word doesn’t meet your personal standard and therefore no one should use it.

        Second, you seem to denounce others for creative use of language, particularly if they write for a living. Whether one does or not is irrelevant. Writers don’t have exclusive domain over language any more than doctors have over healing.

        Lastly, I’m sorry you missed the satire of my final point. Anyone who has read and tried to understand the Bard realizes he was well-educated. In his case, he used his education to expand his mind. Your education seems to have accomplished the opposite. If turnabout is fair play, any writer knows the use of expletives is a linguistic kopout.

      • David,

        Thanks for getting back! (Sincerely.)

        Your three points:

        First, “in my mind”. Of course, “in my mind”–this is a BLOG. Most blogs are opinion based and not fact based. That’s the point. Most blog writers are the narcissistic folk who believe people want to read their rants. (I do not exclude myself from this group.) So we rant loud to a chorus of groans, eye-rolls, crickets’ chirps, a few nods and/or an occasional “get a life”.

        Second, where did I denounce “creative use of language?” My contention is with “impactful.” I see I was unclear with the first P.S. “If you’re a writer, you should know better.” I should have written “If you’re a writer, you should know better than to use ‘impactful.'” I doubt this will assuage you. Your focus seems to be on the creative use of language. Again, I ask you, do you believe a creative poet and or writer would conjure up “impactful” in a piece?

        Third/Lastly. Satire is made of an entire piece of writing (or film, or play, or art), not a portion thereof. Were you using satire, you would have written the whole response in what you would consider me to consider made-up words, to illustrate the point you think I’m full of crap. That would have been funny and may have been somewhat effective. What you used in a section of your comment was “sarcasm” which is often an element of satire.

        “…he [Shakespeare} used his education to expand his mind. Your education seems to have accomplished the opposite.” I wish I could disagree with you outright on this point. I probably cast aside more than I should because of my pedantary. However, I’m not one to embrace something because someone believes it to be creative rather than misguided. That written—context is everything.

        “If turnabout is fair play, any writer knows the use of expletives is a linguistic kopout” I don’t know if you’ll believe me on this, but I see what you did there and I kind of love it.


  6. Ms. Cunt, once it’s in the a culture’s lexicon it becomes a real word. Go fuck yourself.

    • Dear Ms. Wordsmith/”Helene Janice”,
      Was it something I wrote?
      ~Ms.Cunt/Sassy Librarian

      Oopsie. Looks like someone used “impactful” in an important document/speech or uses it in meetings hoping to sound impressive.

  7. Ehhh says:

    Thank God you weren’t around when Shakespeare was making words up

    • It cracks me up when people point to Shakespeare’s craft for comparison. Shakespeare, Lewis Carol and others demonstrate a mastery of the English language. The mind that “created” “impactful” and those who use it are far FAR from that Pantheon.

  8. Michael P Hileman says:

    “Impactful” means “Something that has an impact”. It’s really that simple.

    Looking at a couple of your blog posts, it seems like you just want to be thought of as a good writer. If you need to declare perfectly serviceable words as “not words” to serve that goal, that’s your perogative darling. It’s your blog.

    I will say, though… You come off as an arrogant cunt. Not cute n’ sassy.. Just kinda cunty. 😦

  9. COYG says:

    Thank you! Yes, I am tired of this ugly coinage. Right now I am hearing this word from not very bright sports commentators who seem to think that using this word makes them sound smart.

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