13 quotations showing how ‘utilize’ can weaken sentences

Corporate communications often contain jargon and needlessly complex verbs. One writer shows how silly the term can sound.

Most corporate writing is full of weak, meaningless verbs.

Consider “implement,” “leverage,” “disseminate,” “promulgate” and the most impotent verb of them all, “utilize.”

Like many Ragan readers, I’ve spent much of my career translating corporate-speak into clear, comprehensible English. I’ve changed “utilize” to “use” more times than I can count.

No matter how many times I explain that “use” is preferred—that it’s simpler and less pretentious—someone insists on using “utilize” because it “sounds better.” The “bigger words will make me sound smarter” myth strikes again.

To demonstrate how ridiculous use of the verb “utilize” is, below are quotations in which “use” is replaced with the offending verb:

1. “Utilize it or lose it.”—Jimmy Connors

2. “Utilize the force, Luke.”—Obi-Wan Kenobi

3. “Never utilize a long word when a short one will do.”—George Orwell

4. “Always be wary of people who utilize quotes. I don’t know who said that.”—Murdoc Niccals

5. “Anything you say can and will be utilized against you.”—Miranda warning

6. “I feel so utilized. I find I like it.”―J.D. Robb

7. “Your father left this in my possession before he died. It is time it was returned to you. Utilize it well.”—Albus Dumbledore

8. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we utilized when we created them.”—Albert Einstein

9. “Time is what we want most, but what we utilize worst.”—William Penn

10. “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug utilized by mankind.”—Rudyard Kipling

11. “Nothing is a waste of time if you utilize the experience wisely.”—Auguste Rodin

12. “To utilize your head, you have to go out of your mind.”—Timothy Leary

13. “Never utilize jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.”—David Ogilvy

Ragan readers, what “utilize” examples do you find atrocious?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to Ragan and PR Daily. Read more of her work at ImpertinentRemarks.

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