the USE controversy

On Wednesday in the 9:30 MW class, there was a major controversy involving my negative and discriminatory sentiments toward the word UTILIZE. I lobbed several critiques against this word, calling it “fancy USE” and saying that it “can’t do anything that USE can’t do.” I said it was the perfect emblem of wordiness in technical communication, because there was NEVER a reason to use it rather than the simple, beautiful, single-syllabic USE.

Midway through my screed, someone informed me that this is a word (UTILIZE, I mean, not USE) that you are encouraged to include in your writing by your engineering professors, obliging me to reel back my RAGE against UTILIZE, at least until I got some more info.

Well…I got more info, and according to Professor T. Kenny Fountain, utilize is perfectly legit for your purposes.

I take back everything I said about, and I apologize for any feelings I may have hurt in the process of my lecture against utilize, or for any confusion.


As I mentioned in class, I first developed my dislike of utilize when I worked as a technical copy editor. My job had nothing to do with content, and everything to do with grammar, form, and style. I was encountering highly documents created through a highly TECHNICAL DISCOURSE; but my encounter with those documents took place within an EDITORIAL discourse. It was a clash of cultures/discourses, which worked really well for the documents we produced (even though working with such technical documents frustrated us editorial people).

But in this class, I have to work on putting my EDITORIAL self aside, and moving closer toward understanding TECHNICAL discourses–just as this class gives you guys an opportunity to move toward discourses outside the squarely technical.


2 thoughts on “the USE controversy”

  1. I find this very interesting that between two different disciplines the usage of just a single word can be accepted or not accepted. I think this is a very good example of how writing varies between disciplines and creates understanding for why writing can seem so hard sometimes (especially when the audience is constantly changing).


  2. On the surface, utilize has the same definition as the word use. However, I do think that it is a cultural difference. So when I use the word utilize as an engineering student, I am suggesting that the subject should be physically used in the most literal sense. To me, “use” doesn’t fully encompass the message I would want to get across.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s