Some words do smart jobs, and ‘utilize’ is one such word. Why I call it smart? Search the Internet for cover letter and resume samples, and you will find large percentage of people using ‘utilize’ to sound super intelligent to their interviewer. However, if you are a grammar nerd like me, you will notice this ploy. Moreover, if the usage is incorrect, all the impression is gone!
Smart words need smart use, but only when you know the difference between the word and its considered-simple substitute. In this case, the smart word is ‘utilize’ and its considered-simple substitute is ‘use’.
I am sure ‘use’ being such a common term, we all know how and where it is best used. The problem occurs when we use ‘utilize’. The two words may appear very close in meaning, but are definitely not inter-changeable.
Oxford English Dictionary (http://oxforddictionaries.com/) states the difference between these two words as follows:
‘Use’ means to take, hold or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing or achieving something; while ‘utilize’ means to make practical and effective use of something.
So, technically you will find the two words are different. While the definition for ‘use’ is completely direct, ‘utilize’ means to bring something to use for a different purpose other than its intended purpose. Thus, when you want to make an alternative use of something, ‘utilize’ is the correct word. Using it merely as a replacement for ‘use’ to add aesthetic value to your text is incorrect.
Here are some examples:
- Paul can ‘use’ the conference room today from 3 PM to 4 PM.
- Paul can ‘utilize’ the conference room for his holiday party today.
- Simon ‘uses’ the dining table for meals, but ‘utilizes’ it more as his work space.
In the third sentence, ‘use’ is appropriate in the first part because eating is the primary purpose of the dining table. However, ‘utilize’ is the appropriate word to use in the second part because that is not the primary purpose of the dining table. This is perhaps one of the simplest examples to learn the difference between ‘use’ and ‘utilize’.
So, choosing what to use of the two words should not be difficult now. Identify how the subject is mostly employed, and if you are referring to the same purpose, use ‘use’; otherwise, use ‘utilize’. Be smart and use ‘utilize’ smartly. If the receiving end is smart too, your effort will be appreciated and your writing will genuinely be loftier.
Need little more help? Look for all citations of use without single quotes in this blog, and it should be clear why I haven’t used ‘utilize’ in any of these citations. Simple! If you’re still confused, you’re safe to use ‘use’ at all times and avoid any misuse!
And now who can crack the title of this blog for me?