Comprise and Utilize

This is a short post with two requests:

  1. If you feel the need to say, “utilize,” would you please have a really good reason not to just say “use”?
  2. If you want to say that something is composed of things, please say “composed” rather than “comprised.”

Thanks for your help!

5 Responses to Comprise and Utilize

  1. Michael Silver September 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm #

    Hmmm, isn’t such seeming redundancy the beauty of the English language?

  2. admin September 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    I don’t mind the redundancy in “use and “utilize.” I just don’t understand why someone would choose the longer, harder word over the IDENTICAL shorter one.

    Same goes for “comprise” and “compose” except that comprise traditionally means something else. The US comprises the 50 states.

    The whole comprises the parts. The parts compose the whole.

    But as long as someone wants to use the two words identically, why choose the harder one?

  3. Kevin September 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    I most often use “comprise” in the “comprised of” way, as in, “here’s a list that is comprised of five categories that can be sorted in the following ways”. I think that’s correct usage, but I don’t think I’ve ever said or written the word “comprises”, and would hesitate to do so, not because I think it shouldn’t be used, I guess I’m just not comfortable that I know how to use it in a natural, unforced way. But I’ve certainly been guilty of similar infractions!

    So, I used to be a consultant, and worked with lots of other consultants, and was constantly amazed by the consultant’s compulsion to choose obscure language over the obvious. You could actually hear the pause in speech patterns sometimes as their mind would glide over the easy choice and reach for the arcane or incomprehensible. As I was grabbing a soda from the fridge one day I overheard a woman explain that she had the need to “conversate” with one of her clients. I’m certain she thought that made her sound more intelligent.

  4. admin September 21, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    Really, if you’re using “comprise” in the most acceptable way, you’d say, “here’s a list that comprises five categories that can be sorted in the following ways.”

    The whole comprises the parts. To say it the way you have it, in the most acceptable way, you’d say that the list is composed of….

    If it’s composed of X, then it comprises X.

    But, having said that, usage is changing, so who knows what will happen. I’m not saying that you’re using “comprised” wrong. I AM saying that you could use “composed” to say the same thing with less added formality.

    Yes, I’ve heard conversate a bit. And I used to work with a project manager who ALWAYS used “whomever” and never “whoever,” no matter what. I think she also was trying to sound smart.

    And it’s sad, because being able to really communicate is a sign of being smart!

  5. Kevin September 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    I’m going to work on that comprises / composes thing.

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