Why use utilize?

Many authors believe that they can impress their readers by using words which are not part of the every-day language. This is particularly true in scientific writing where, in addition to words specific to the field and in general unknown to outsiders, authors often use English words that have simpler forms with exactly the same meaning. Interestingly, many books and essays on the topic of scientific writing strongly suggest not to do that, as it makes your work harder to understand.

A particularly good example is the word utilize, which is often used instead of use, although the two words are synonyms. According to Merriam Webster, utilize is defined as “to make use of”, whereas according to Oxford English, the meaning is “to use something, especially for a practical purpose”.

Some quick research along these lines (a search for utilize in abstracts of the journal Physical Review B) suggests that the majority of papers with the word utilize in the abstract are written by non-native speakers (judging by name and affiliation).


3 thoughts on “Why use utilize?

  1. Testify is not a fancy word for test – painfulenglish

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