Thursday, January 23, 2014

You don't need to use "utilize"

Editors assume that writers use utilize in an effort to sound important. That's why most editors will compulsively change it.

For one thing, it has three syllables with a "t" and a "z" in there to slow the reader up.

It is not synonymous with use.

Editors talking about you.
We know how to use use, and you can go right ahead and use it whenever you like, and you won't be wrong.

Utilize, however, has a more specific meaning: You utilize items when you create a new or nontraditional job for them. For example:
You can use a fork to eat with, or you can use a fork to prop open a window, without stepping into any grammar holes. However, you can not utilize a fork for eating, while you can utilize a fork to prop open a window.
Got it? Here's more:
Merriam-Webster defines utilize as, “to make use of; turn to practical use or account.” So how is this different from use? In a nutshell, to utilize something is to give it a use it may not have originally had. For example:

• Yes, you can utilize the conference room for your holiday party.
• We utilize Excel for our database instead of Access.
• Our company utilizes many common tools to come up with new innovations.
That's enough. My suggestion is that, unless you're trying to make a specific point about the use of an item, don't use utilize lest people think you're pretentious.

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