By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning nonprofit content writer, website publisher, and author of 9 books.
An online devotional for writers
If you speak words … that are not intelligible and clear, how will anyone understand what you are saying? (1 Corinthians 14:9, AMP)
"Utilize" versus "use." Grammarians say that the distinction between the two words has disappeared. Any shade of difference in meaning is inconsequential.
Which begs the question: why does any content writer or copywriter use the word "utilize" when "use" will do?
Content writers are taught to write like we talk. One way is to replace a 10-dollar word with a 10-cent word whenever I can. "Utilize" is the 10-dollar, three-syllable, elongated version of its 3-letter, 10-cent cousin.
When I write "utilize" rather than "use," I notice an uncomfortable truth: "utilize" pops up in my writing when I want to sound smart. It's a crutch - a crutch I use for my benefit, not my reader's.
If a more complicated word is needed to make a point, I can use it. But on my good days when I'm writing to benefit my readers, I avoid utilizing unnecessary, high-falutin' language.
The choice between two words is this: the more complicated word may make me feel that I am smart. But the simpler word is easier for my reader to understand.
When I put myself first, I am tempted to use the fancier word.
When I put my reader first, I use the simpler word.
The truth is that my job is to write as clearly as possible so that the reader can understand my point.
Use simple language whenever you can.
When I am tempted to use words in a way to make myself feel I am smart, show me my motives. Let my focus be on clear communication. Help me express ideas in the simplest way possible.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
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