‘Impactful’: the dumbest fucking word ever

November 29, 2019


The list of things I hate in life is very short. Brussel sprouts, pugs, spiders and the word ‘impactful’.

See, not too long.

There are rational reasons why each item makes it onto my list. But there’s one that makes my blood boil more than any of the others. Pretty sure the title of this post gives the game away as to which that is.

Why I hate the combination of letters that creates ‘impactful’

First, let’s get one thing clear: ‘impactful’ is not a word.

It doesn’t appear in the dictionary therefore it’s not a word.


See, it’s not there! This is from the Macquarie Dictionary, for reference.

“But you type it into Google and dictionary sites show up, Rose so….ya know…”

Yeah-nah. You can shove your internet dictionary where the sun doesn’t shine. You can also type in ‘cocknobbler’ and apparently there are dictionary sites accepting that as a real word too. So, unless a word is in the OED (or country equivalent) I’m doing this.


If I was to accept ‘impactful’ as a word, its apparent definition is this:


Screenshot taken from online Merriam-Webster dictionary.

This leads me to my second argument as to why planet Earth doesn’t need ‘impactful’. There are already words that exist (and sound less wanky) to explain and describe the same thing. You don’t need to add the suffix ‘-ful’ to the noun ‘impact’ or adjective ‘impacted’.

Grammarly, who are much better at explaining grammar than I am (and aren’t as blindsided by hate right now) explain why.

“The suffix simply means “full of” or “having the quality of.” Other adjectives are formed by adding the suffix -ful to a noun. To a native speaker’s ear, “full of doubt” sounds fine, so doubtful is uncontroversial. “Having the quality of beauty” sounds fine, so beautiful is acceptable, too. However, “full of impact” and “having the quality of impact” sounds strange. For some, this is sufficient reason to say impactful is not a word.”

Rather than trying to turn ‘impact’ into something it’s not use a word that is an actual adjective or verb. You could have ‘powerful’, ‘influential’, ‘effective’, etc. There are lots to choose from.


You can find something better than ‘impactful’.

The counter argument: but writers make up words all the time

Yup, we do. From ‘sexpert’ through to ‘flavourful’ and ‘Brangelinna’. Writers coin, blend and make up lots of words. Some are good. Many are terrible. For me, ‘impactful’ falls into the latter category and there’s nothing that’s going to change my mind.

Think I’m being irrational? I’m not. Lots of other creatives and marketing folks have words they loathe. Some made up, some acceptable but totally overused.


Got a word you hate?

Tell me about it. Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter. (I swear, it feels like this one could go on forever.)

Or maybe you feel differently to me about the word ‘impactful’. I dare you to try and change my mind.


Back to blog >



  1. Thanks for that. Just Googled cocknobbler 😳

    • Urgh yeah I saw that article on Merriam Webster. It made my blood boil and I don’t buy into their *in whinging voice* “Well people use it therefore it’s a real word” argument.

  2. This is the best thing I’ve seen on the internet in ages! I was editing something for someone close to me and told them of my intense loathing for this word. To see if it was just me, I googled ‘impactful’ and ‘wanky’ and there you were as top hit! Your title alone absolutely made my day. Great piece. Thank you!

    • Hey there Di,

      Always a pleasure to meet a fellow ‘impactful’ hater and really nice to hear you enjoyed the article.
      Hope your ‘someone close’ understood the absolute necessity for you to edit that word out of their copy.

  3. I think the reason “impactful” is such a hideous word is not because it is “made up”, because it appears so often used in social media and the news by people who are clearly too lazy, “kitschy” and stupid to have used better, existing words. It’s a made-up word born out of ignorance, not ingenuity.

  4. Sounds less like it’s not a word and more like it’s a word you simply don’t like. If something can have an impact on your life, then that thing is impactful; it is full of impact.

    • Yes, so I’d say, ‘This thing impacted my life.’

      • ….or you could just say ‘impactful’ – 1 word vs 5 unnecesary ones

  5. Amazing. You’re amazing. I’m amazing. Impactful is amazing. The meatballs are amazing. That blouse? You guessed it: AMAZING!

  6. THANK YOU!! Good to see there are logical reasons why it grates on my nerves. That “word” has been annoying me for years. It’s not in my dictionaries so, in my mind, it isn’t a word. But its use has become more prevalent. I decided to search online to see if internet dictionaries defend it. Merriam-Webster DOES. Why am I not surprised? I was so happy to see your article listed next.

    What word do I hate? Articulate. It has become terribly overused, especially when commenting about a (Black) person whom the speaker is surprised to see is intelligent.

  7. I feel like i’m falling for some kind of in-joke or r/woosh moment, but “impactful” is right there in your dictionary. It’s the adjective form of the 7th definition, split up between two lines. It’s the last full word in your own accepted definition.

    i ended up here because i too hate that stupid word. but no one else has said anything about it, so i am.

    • OMG! How has this not been picked up sooner? This is one of my most visited/commented on blogs. And how did I not see that the word is, indeed, right there. Well, this is upsetting. Basically undermines this whole post. Guess we’ll just have to use it now as a place for us likeminded folks to vent a little about this dumb word.

  8. I’ve despised the ‘word’ that shall not be spoken for decades. I’ve heard it was the business people who foisted that jargon on us. I believe it since they say things like, ‘Let’s circle back to that,’ and ‘inclusion.’ You cannot trust people who talk like that.

    I also hate when people use the word ‘myself’ incorrectly: ‘Jane or myself will help you with that…’ No, I don’t think so.

  9. O, this is magnificent, Rose, and rightfully sardonic. I detest this word too, and the people who use it, almost about as much as I detest the word selfie, an abomination born of the insta-human generation, that bane of the planet. The word is self-portrait. Did Dante have a circle into which to put this clan? Let’s add them to the 8th circle, the circle of Fraud!

    And who in tarnation is editing Merriam-Webster? Clearly no right-minded philologist. Dictionaries have now too been taken over by nincompoops. Add them to the pile with Wikipedia, that dreadful imitation of an encyclopedia. Fire!

  10. Impactful is in the OED


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Greedy for more?

My experience with copywriting courses

My experience with copywriting courses

Are copywriting courses useful? Having taken two, here are my honest motivations and experiences along with the impact they’ve had on my business.

The best cricket adverts

The best cricket adverts

As a kid most of my summer weekends were spent at the cricket ground. My dad played every Saturday and Sunday for a club close to our home in Leicestershire. I was taught to mow an outfield, cut a square and roll a wicket before I left primary school. My love of...

What’s the process when working with a copywriter?

What’s the process when working with a copywriter?

Your business needs great writing. Rather than slogging it out yourself, you want to hire a copywriter. But how long does it take to get the copy you want? How do you tell a copywriter what you need? And, most importantly, how do you make sure you’re happy with what...


Room for one more in your inbox?

Luckily I'm five-foot-fuck-all, so I don't take up much space. Neither will my updates on upcoming availability, last-minute spaces and useful stuff to read while making a cuppa

%d bloggers like this: