Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Downfall of the English language?

I was on Craigslist for a bit today, skimming over job listings. (Note to self: update the resume posted on Monster and Hotjobs.) And... I like Craigslist, I do--there's a lot there, from sale listings to real estate to "missed encounters" that are great for a laugh ("Our eyes met in the produce aisle of the grocery store. I was wearing a blue baseball cap, and you were gorgeous. I felt there was a connection. E-mail me.")

I make it sound disreputable, not my intention. People place stupid ads in the classifieds, too, only they pay money to do so. While I would not use Craigslist as my primary job search site, it's good resource to widen the net in a job search, which is why I was on to begin with.

If a listing is riddled with typos, I pass it over on principle--might as well stick with teaching freshman comp if that's what I'd have to look forward to dealing with. Sometimes, the issue is more than just careless editing. One listing I looked over was searching for (I believe) an editor or copywriter. I remember nothing about the job description except the word "impactful," as in, I guess, impactful prose, prose that is full of impact.


Impactful is not a word

I am willing to accept that language is a living thing and that my educational background leads me toward sometimes antiquarian tendencies. I've used words in casual conversation that I probably picked up in some Romantic-era tract, that are still valid but no longer commonly used. Pity, really, that so few people use the word "wont." It's so useful.... But I digress. At the same time, in the course of my studies, I learned to ignore spell check in writing papers with literary criticism because critics and scholars like to coin words on a whim (oooohh... "masculinist discourse" sounds good. Hey, what about "phallogocentrism?" All those syllables... size matters, you know). Those words at least sound impressive, and they do convey what the authors intended. Sure, they could as easily have found an existing word or combination of words to make the same point, but their alternatives work within a given discourse community. And when I write the occasional verse of poetry, I sometimes take liberty with language in the interest of scansion or simple wordplay. Language can change. It does change. It should change. People, cultures, societies change and evolve, and language will inevitably reflect that. "Google" is now a verb, and I suspect "to friend" will, with a bit of resistance from the old schoolers, wend its way into the language. I have no problems with those and few real issues with the lit crit folks' additions, much as I adore mocking them.

But "impactful" is just... it's wrong. Impactful just grates on the ears like nails on a chalkboard. The word "impact" alone has been so overdone, so overused as a buzz word, it's lost its, well, impact. Try "effective" or "masterful" or "clear" or "powerful" or "memorable." I came up with those off the top of my head, but if need be, you can use a thesaurus, oh poor, struggling, job ad writer. It's got all sorts of nifty words in it, ones that have been proven impactful effective over time. There's no need to bastardize the language in a failed attempt at profundity.

Needless to say, I'm no more applying for the "impactful" job than I am for the one seeking an "edutainer."

1 comment:

Shay said...

"Impact" is my #2 pet grammar peeve (after "hopefully.")

Unless you're describing a wisdom tooth, don't use it.