Don Jones

Tech | Career | Musings

You do not utilize a computer. You use a computer.

verb (used with object)used, using.
1.

to employ for some purpose; put into service; make use of:

to use a knife.
2.

to avail oneself of; apply to one’s own purposes:

to use the facilities.
3.

to expend or consume in use:

We have used the money provided.
4.

to treat or behave toward:

He did not use his employees with much consideration.
5.

to take unfair advantage of; exploit:

to use people to gain one’s own ends.
6.

to drink, smoke, or ingest habitually:

to use drugs.
7.

to habituate or accustom.
Utilize is a word often used by people who think that it makes them sound smarter, because “z” and all that. These people are wrong.

The word utilize is generally accepted as correct when you’re speaking of some resource which has a finite capacity, and you need to discuss in general terms how much of that capacity is being used. Oxygen utilization in the blood, for example. It could certainly be applied to utilization of our datacenter resources in a similar fashion. You may not have fully utilized your email server (and not the companion word, fully, which further implies a measurement of consumption), but when you sit down to send an email you are using Outlook or whatever.

Seem too complicated? Fine – just never use “utilized” at all. We are not using our datacenter to its full capacity would work just as fine, and actually be a lot clearer.

I’m going to keep posting this every year until the madness stops.

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