Use or Utilize?

2024 Grammar-for-Grownups Top 10


Number 6: Use vs. Utilize


A blog reader recently tagged me with this question, and it is one we cover during our Grammar-for-Grownups seminars:


From a Business Writing Specialty Certificate participant:


Question: “I have a coworker who insists utilize is a word worth using. I change it, but he changes it back. Do you have information you could share regarding your recommendation not to use that word?”




To answer your question, the real issue is with people using use and utilize synonymously. Many business writers substitute utilize for use because they believe it sounds more professional. Many technical writers especially tend to overuse utilize, and they usually are not approaching it correctly. 


In reality, use and utilize do not have the same meaning. Practically speaking, we use use any time we are talking about engaging something in order to accomplish a task. 


Allen used email to update his team about all the meeting cancelations due to weather precautions. (Utilize would be incorrect in this sentence.)


Utilize has a different meaning. We use utilize when we are describing engaging something in order to accomplish a task for which it was not originally intended.


Lynnie utilized her dictionary as a doorstop for her office door.


International travelers have begun utilizing surgical slippers as face masks when trapped in airports for hours.


We should stop substituting utilize for use. It is a commonly misused word in the “rise of -ize” trend we are encountering as writers. This frowned-upon writing habit includes words such as:

  • Bulletize
  • Securitize
  • Dollarize
  • Statementize
  • Calendarize


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Certified Speaking Professional Mandi Stanley works with business leaders who want to boost their professional image by becoming better speakers and writers through interactive high-content keynotes, breakout sessions, workshops, technical writing seminars, and fun proofreading classes. 

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Photo by Magda Ehlers