Use or Utilize

Nowhere in good writing do utilize and utilization serve a better purpose than use. The former two words, which appear far later in our language (c. 1800 vs. c. 1200), now function as perfect synonyms of use—redundancies that do not improve our language. Perhaps due to their French origin, utilize and utilization are often mistaken as more formal alternatives to use; a mistake even the New Oxford American Dictionary makes. Unfortunately, they are wrong; despite the longer words’ popularity in corporate settings—places severely lacking knowledge of basic usage—no evidence suggests that the longer words make writing any more formal. (For the curious, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary does not make this same mistake.)

As Wilson Follett states (and mentioned by Bryan A. Garner): “If utilize and utilization were to disappear tomorrow, no writer of the language would be the poorer.”