A disclaimer notice that The News & Observer posts on the new story comment system sent me to the dictionary Wednesday. (I added the red circle to show what word stopped me.)


Here is what the notice says, in part:

However, the interactive nature of the internet makes it impracticable for our staff to monitor each and every posting.


I wondered why the notice needed “impracticable” instead of “impractical.” The dictionary defines “impracticable” as “not capable of being carried out in practice.” On the other hand, “impractical” means “not workable or useful.” Bryan A. Garner and R.W. Burchfield in their usage guides note that “impracticable” is an older and stronger term. Something could be “impractical” but perhaps doable; something that is “impracticable” is just flat not doable. The American Heritage Book of English Usage draws the distinction well.

Here is the Free Dictionary entry and the Merriam-Webster entry, both of which include a sound clip of the pronunciation.

“Impracticable” is just the right word in this case. (I don’t care much for “each and every,” but that’s another post.)

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.