Use Your Words

utilize versus use

It happens to the best of us: you want to use a word but suddenly realize you aren’t quite sure what the word really means. I mean, you do, but DO you?  

If you aren’t sure whether you are using a word correctly, the best thing you can do is look up its definition. You could also just opt not to use it, but if you ignore opportunities to learn, you can never grow. If you never grow, you’ll never become the better person you were always meant to be. 

If you ever struggle to think of the perfect word to use, feel free to do what I do in our fabulous 21st century world. Simply type the word you are trying to replace into Google with the word “synonym” after it. Usually something in the search results fits the bill. 

“Utilize” versus “Use”

As an example, let’s look at the proper use of the word “utilize,” an often used and often unnecessarily utilized word. 

The dictionary definition of “utilize” is “to make use of,” more or less. This is a little different from “use,” which means, more or less, “to take, hold, or deploy for the accomplishment of some purpose.” 

In other words, when we are discussing something that can be taken, held, or deployed, always use “use,” as it is a simpler word and simplicity is the spice of effective retention. However, when the thing being discussed can’t really be physically taken, held, or deployed, that’s when you can bust out the fancier language with “utilize.” 

For Example…

They use a computer keyboard to write. 

However, they utilize knowledge of 15th century philosophy and low-bar American comedy to craft this gem: 

A horse walks into a bar.  
Bartender: “Are you lost?”  
Horse: “I don’t think I am.” 
Immediately, the horse vanishes from existence.  

See, this was a joke about Descartes’ famous line from philosophy, “I think; therefore, I am.” 
However, if I had explained that before the rest of the joke, it would have been putting Descartes before the horse. 

However, “use” is often used in place of “utilize” without an issue, so you can just remove “utilize” from your lexicon if you are opposed to frivolous use of a bigger word where a smaller one will serve. 

Have questions? We’re always here to help. Feel free to reach out.

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