Published: Jun 25, 2006
Last Updated: Dec 2, 2017

(Author's note: Moldy oldie, circa 2006. Still holds true.)

Press releases heavily use the word "utilize," and rarely utilize the word "use" -- even though to most people the words are interchangeable.

Just checking some recent releases on Google News:

Aladdin's Enterprise Security solutions enable organizations to secure their information technology assets by controlling ... what content their users can utilize...

To finance the transaction, PrimeWest will utilize its existing credit lines plus a supplementary credit line of C$250 million.

Cactus Commerce End-to-End Supply Chain Solutions Utilize Upcoming BizTalk Server 2006 R2

Clearly, many corporate folks think big words sound more impressive than small words. It just sounds better to "utilize" state-of-the-art technology than to "use" it, doesn't it?

No question, execs often have big-word-itis, and it is our job as communication professionals to counter that urge with simplicity and clarity. So does that mean we should always lobby for the one-syllable, three-letter "use" over the three-syllable, seven-letter "utilize"?

Not necessarily -- because contrary to popular opinion, the words aren't quite synonymous.

As explained at

A number of critics have remarked that "utilize" is an unnecessary substitute for "use."

It is true that many occurrences of "utilize" could be replaced by "use" with no loss to anything but pretentiousness, for example, in sentences such as "They utilized questionable methods in their analysis" or "We hope that many commuters will continue to utilize mass transit after the bridge has reopened."

But utilize can mean "to find a profitable or practical use for." Thus the sentence "The teachers were unable to use the new computers" might mean only that the teachers were unable to operate the computers, whereas "The teachers were unable to utilize the new computers" suggests that the teachers could not find ways to employ the computers in instruction.

Got it? So utilize "utilize," but use it sparingly.

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About the Author

Scott Baradell
Scott Baradell
Trust expert Scott Baradell is CEO and founder of Idea Grove. Idea Grove helps its clients secure trust at scale through its unique Grow With TRUST approach. Scott is an established authority on trust and editor of the online publication Trust Signals, as well as author of the upcoming book Trust Signals: Brand Building in a Post-Truth World. Idea Grove celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2020, earning honors including the 2020 Pegasus Award for Small Agency of the Year, being named a Top 200 B2B service provider by Clutch, and ranking in the top 25 tech agencies in the U.S. by O'Dwyer's. Scott has an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America and speaks on PR and marketing topics at industry events nationwide.

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