Impactful, Overstored, Calendaring: Valid Words?

The real deal - grunge stampMy ruthless editor radar operates nonstop. Here are some words I happened on recently in print that made me grab my laptop for a quick Google search.

I address the general acceptance of impact as either a noun or a verb later in this post, but using impactful as an adjective still often is viewed as incorrect.

However, change is in the air; claims, “The word is here to stay, whether we like it or not.”

What’s the difference between powerful, influential and impactful? The site claims that impactful has become entrenched in our language because “many people don’t find it to be an exact synonym of those words and that it has shades of meaning all its own.”

The speech she delivered at graduation was the most impactful of her college years.
His impactful dancing brought wild applause.
If you want your fiction to be impactful, you’ll need to incorporate more dialog.

I would not choose any of these constructions; they all sound odd and clumsy. And knowing that impactful still is considered a poor choice for use in many business environments, I’ll continue to avoid it.

Consider these three sentences:

1) Low interest rates negatively impact savings accounts.
2) Low interest rates negatively affect savings accounts.
3) Low interest rates have a negative impact on savings accounts.

Until recently, when I was editing a document and found impact used as a verb as shown in example 1), I would wield my ruthless editor red pencil (metaphorically speaking). I’d either replace it with what I considered a more appropriate verb such as affect in example 2), or I would modify the sentence to make impact a noun as in example 3).

As I began to see impact used as a verb in more and more reputable, credible places, I decided it was time to loosen up. I now usually let it go, unless the piece is for an academic work that might require what many consider its more traditional use: impact as a noun only. The latest version of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association provides this advice:

The noun impact is appropriate, but use of the verb impacted is often incorrect.

In an article about the local grocery store scene in a Madison, Wis., business publication, I found this comment by the president of a marketing firm. He’s talking about the volume of business a particular size of store needs in order to survive:

If a 30,000-square-foot store is doing less than $200,000 in sales in a week, “you have to wonder if the area is over-stored or if this is just a bad operator.”

I found overstored (no hyphen) in online dictionaries, so I consider it a valid word that means having more stores than the market will support. It apparently has been around since the mid-1960s. I guess I’ve not been paying enough attention to the plight of the evolution of grocery stores in my world!

In the same publication that featured over-stored, I found calendaring used in this headline:

A Compelling Reason for Careful Calendaring

The article encouraged meeting planners to consider the audience for the events they were scheduling, paying special attention to religious holidays.

Google led me to online dictionaries that revealed calendaring is a verb form of the noun calendar. It means to enter or schedule on a calendar. A less adroit definition is “to do what a calendar does. When you are calendaring, you are interacting with a calendar in some way.”

Well … OK. Sounds as though we maybe could avoid calendaring, which might be confusing to some, and instead stick to schedule or scheduling. But who wants to appear stodgy and out of touch with our changing language?

I’m calendaring everyone’s birthday into my iPhone so that I can send them a timely greeting.

Calendaring also is a paper-finishing process that involves passing damp paper through several heated rollers to give it a smooth, shiny finish.

Although I considered overstored and calendaring new words when I started this post, they apparently have been around for some time, and impactful seems to be working its way into accepted lexicon in some places. Linguistic fashions evolve. Keep an eye — and ear — out for impactful, overstored and calendaring. I’d love to know which you hear most often and in what context.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)