‘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.


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  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.


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