I fear that in the business/marketing world, this horse has left the stable. But is there any consensus on the acceptability of the word "intentional" in such usages as:

"We need to be more intentional in our efforts to improve our business."

Is it possible to "be intentional"? Don't we really mean we should be focused or resolved or strategic?

  • 1
    Business gurus are constantly creating new jargon like this, usually by repurposing old words ("repurposing" is actually a result of this process). But that's the way language evolves: if people use and understand the word in a new way, it becomes acceptable. – Barmar Jan 9 '15 at 23:40
  • You're unlikely to find a reference that answers a question like this, as it takes years for these new uses to get into dictionaries. E.g. try to find a dictionary that legitimizes the use of monetize to mean make money from a service, although that's now the usual meaning in business settings. – Barmar Jan 9 '15 at 23:42
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    "To be intentional [in one's actions, efforts etc.]" doesn't seem very different in meaning from the well-established "to be deliberate [in one's actions, efforts etc.]". – Erik Kowal Jan 9 '15 at 23:47
  • @Robusto - This... what? – Erik Kowal Jan 10 '15 at 1:59
  • It means I agree with what you said. – Robusto Jan 10 '15 at 2:15

If something is at least understandable, then the question of "is this acceptable?" always raises the question "acceptable to whom?" (Or possibly "acceptable to who?" depending on how acceptable you find that…).

In very formal use?

Probably not. The long-standing and well-attested meanings are either "about intent" or (of an action) "on purpose", and this use does not match one of those, so it is probably best avoided for a while to come.

In very informal use?

Middling. It's a bit shirt-and-tie, but then very informal use is flexible, so you can get away with a lot.

Business use?

The evidence would seem to say it is, wouldn't it?

The self-help community?

It would appear to be close to compulsory.

Me personally?

Hey, we all get to have an opinion. Generally to take an adjective normally applied to actions and then apply it to people wouldn't upset me much, though I'd likely enjoy it the first time and less-so with later use. Here though I can't help feel that using this word rather than considering that its synonym deliberate already has a sense that applies isn't very… intentional, is it? I can't help but dislike it for that reason alone.

However, that dislike is a preference that doesn't go as far as finding it to be "wrong".

Other audiences are going to vary, but with any jargon that has yet to reach a very wide currency there's going to be a range of opinions out there. An objective answer as to whether it's "correct" or not is impossible, but I'd advise not using such jargon unless either you personally like it a lot (hey, you get to have an opinion too) or your dealing with the specialised context where the jargon offers precision no other term does (which in this case doesn't exist).

  • Good response, and I like the matter-of-fact, conversational delivery. Now, back to that bio! – user98990 Jan 10 '15 at 1:06
  • @LittleEva I hate bios. – Jon Hanna Jan 10 '15 at 1:31
  • I got lost and wrote an autobiography. – user98990 Jan 10 '15 at 1:35
  • I like it. It makes explicit what many of us seem to think; namely that most business efforts are unintentional. Or, at best, random: not particularly connected to a desired outcome. If businesspeople like to use such self-deprecating language, I say let 'em have at it! – Brian Hitchcock Jan 10 '15 at 5:07

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