Words we hate: one word never to utilise
By Alex Blyth, Editorial Director
I try not to get bothered by it. Really I do.
I try to focus on the message, not getting distracted by the words. I listen or read intently, cheerfully choosing to ignore the mis-used reflexive pronouns, the tortuous convolutions around the passive voice, and the pomposity of people ‘acquiring’ when they’re really just ’getting’ or ‘buying’.
But I can’t quite manage it. When someone drops the U bomb I flinch involuntarily, my pulse quickens in a primeval flight or fight reaction, and I start trying to wrestle my inner pedant into silence. No one likes that guy.
But seriously. ‘Utilise’?
Why do it? Why treat ‘use’ like that. What’s it done wrong?
OK, if you’re talking about using something in a way that’s different to its original purpose, then I suppose you can utilise if you really have to. As in “Thank you for writing this long and incredibly dense report ‘Increasing Utilisation Rates Among Contact Centre Agents’ I plan to utilise it as a doorstop.”
But generally there’s no reason to add those four pointless letters to the perfectly serviceable ‘use’.
It’s not really the word itself that I hate. It’s the thinking that causes it. In most cases it’s people using language to try to mask a lack of knowledge, ideas or confidence. That’s not what words are for. Words should provide clarity and illumination. They should be as simple, vivid and precise as we can possibly make them.
So, please help me out here. Stop using the word ‘utilise’, let me keep that inner pedant safely hidden from view, and let me concentrate on the story you’re trying to tell, the idea you’re trying to explain, the opinion you’re trying to share. Because that’s what I really care about.