Everyone has a word that causes your eye to twitch and your fists to ball up.
You’d be forgiven if “impactful” is on your list. It’s pervasive and persistent. It’s vague. Something about it just doesn’t feel right.
Urban Dictionary defines “impactful” as:
“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.”
That’s not quite true, as “impactful” has been used since at least the 1950s. However, it smacks of the overwrought corporate jargon communicators should avoid.
This is a word that is likely to provoke some members of your audience, which is reason enough to find a different option. As Merriam-Webster writes: “Impactful is a word despised by many. And it’s for that reason alone that you might want to avoid it. If those you’re communicating with are distracted by your use of a hated word, then your ability to communicate is limited. You’d do better to choose another one.”
The beloved dictionary, our vanguard of language that continues to greenlight the likes of “vacay,” “sesh” and “truthiness,” continues: “It’s likely that hatred for impactful will fade over time, and you’ll be able to use it without fear of being pummeled or snorted at.”
Color me skeptical as to whether the hate will abate. Either way, lest you be snorted at or pummeled by enraged colleagues and readers, here are nine more precise or descriptive alternatives for “impactful” to consider.
Arresting. I’d rather watch a video that’s “striking,” “gripping” or “stirring.”
Bursting. Marketers often use “impactful” in an effort to convey how “awesome” some doo-hickey is. Why not try something more vivid and descriptive?
Compelling. As Ron Burgundy would report and confirm, stories that are “compelling and rich” will be seared into your audience’s memory.
Crucial. “Vital” is another good one. Be careful with “critical,” which is often misused.
Effective. Part of the problem with “impactful” is that it’s vague. What sort of impact are we talking about? Good or bad? “Effective” isn’t sexy, but it gets the job done.
Effervescent. Can’t you just taste this word?
Forceful. Nothing wrong with “powerful,” either.
Persuasive. Was the speaker “impactful,” or did she successfully move the audience to act? Be more specific and constructive with your feedback, please.
Vigorous. It’s descriptive, and it rolls off the tongue. In any case, it’s better than “impactful.”