What do you mean by “impactful?”

Recently I’ve come across frequent use of the word “impactful” in technology copywriting. It’s most often used to describe one of the benefits of a software solution, as in how it will help a company gain a business advantage. The word seemed only partially authentic, slightly smelling of jargon, like so many words in technical marketing. So I looked it up.

As suspected, impactful is a non-word. In fact, it is held in contempt, with numerous websites devoted to its demise. According to the Urban Dictionary, impactful is:

“A non-existent word coined by corporate advertising, marketing and business drones to make their work sound far more useful, exciting and beneficial to humanity than it really is. This term is most frequently used in “team building” seminars and conferences in which said drones discuss the most effective ways to convince consumer zombies to purchase crap they clearly do not need or even want. Example: “The board was convinced that my new ad campaign for arsenic and semen flavored lollipops for tots will be incredibly impactful and will generate heaps of sales.”

Wow. A little harsh, but point taken. Perhaps better word choices – real ones, in fact – would be: effective, impressive, has impact.  My choice? Influential.

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