Usage and Grammar

Q. The ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is a British set of books describing best practices for the IT service provider. The books are poorly written, a mess of needlessly long and stultifyingly passive sentences. That fact aside, the ITIL authors also randomly capitalize nouns that they think worthy. What is your position on this quaint custom of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English literature? Whilst you dwell on your response, is there ever a situation where “utilize” adds anything more to its synonym “use” than two extra syllables and a healthy dose of pretentiousness? Looking forward to your glib, yet wise, response.

A. I would characterize our position on the capitalization of odd nouns as one of gentle disdain, and our position on “utilize” as one of conservative vigilance. (If you look at a good dictionary, you’ll see that the word does have a nuance of its own, and so is occasionally useful in the right context.)