Let’s make a pact to stop saying it

Pour yourself a cuppa and settle in.

I’m going to say something truly disgusting. Truly abhorrent. I can’t believe I am actually going to say this. Here goes…

‘Impactful.’

What an utterly unpleasant, unnecessary, unbecoming word. Is there a more malodorous, misbegotten malady than the word ‘Impactful’?

“Thanks for that session Greg it really impacted me.”

Did it? Did it? You should seek medical attention at once. Impacted, the horror! I don’t want to be impacted. Don’t impact me. I may want to be impressed, affected, challenged, moved, disquieted, unnerved, overcome, awestruck, inspired, or (in a fit of righteous élan) piqued, but I do not wish to be impacted.

“I want this piece to be one that impacts people.”

Do you? If you are going around making people impacted they may well struggle to fully digest it…

‘Impactful’ is such an unnecessary word, mangled out of shape, reason, and decency. Yes, language is always flowing and rules are broken as words spill the banks and find new routes to the ocean and that is wonderful, vital, incredible… but ‘impactful’ is a muddy, stagnant eddy indeed.

Many words we use unthinkingly are polished gems, little prisms that were originally metaphors but that have since been smoothed and softened out of recognition. When the first person said ‘That made a real impact’ it did make an impact because it created a vivid unexpected image! His suggestion, that what had struck him (there I go again) had had a physical impact on him, like a heavy blow, was powerful and evocative. (It was in fact Josiah Merriweather, 1642, in response to a striking portrait of an expansive, unamused toad perched ungainly on a lily pad).

So many people have been having an impact on one another since that we have filed down all its rough edges. To say something makes an impact no longer does. Things that have been invigorating, rewarding, and encouraging have been reduced to the level of a twack – things running smack into other things. In the process we have desensitised ourselves to the very idea of impact. Picture the knight, knocked off his steed saying, “Yes that lance was quite impactful…’

‘Impact’ is a tool that has been worked down to a nub and is splintering into harmful shards such as ‘impacting’ and ‘impacty’. We traverse a perilous jungle lair, desperately scrambling across a rickety rope bridge while an enormous Newton’s cradle swings perilously above us ready to make an impact at any false step.

The ‘impactful’ tributary off our great river of language, diverts life away from the streams of illuminating, enriching, edifying, stupefying, inundating and revelatory. So let’s dam up this damned word and encourage the language to flow elsewhere.

I hope you found this post impactful.

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2 comments

  1. One of those words at work I dread…

  2. …dread

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