Certainly we can admire Google for its growth, global reach, inventiveness, and the brilliance of its teams. But they’ve gone too far. Cleverness has its limits. Analyze, yes. Optimize, yes. Publicize, yes–those are all things online content providers want to do. But troubleshootize? No, Google, you’ve gone too far.
The word is troubleshoot. Tizing it adds nothing to its meaning and, in fact, detracts from clarity. The reader wonders What does it mean to troubleshootize?
When I was learning my craft as a business writer many years ago, the experts often criticized the use of ize words, commanding, “Use–don’t utilize!” and “Set priorities–don’t prioritize” and “Finish—don’t finalize!” Writing teachers often disparaged ize words.
I agreed with their promoting of use. It made perfect sense to me as a shorter, crisper version of utilize. But not so fast: Even today, my dictionaries point out that utilize can have a special meaning that use doesn’t have. The American Heritage College Dictionary explains:
Utilize can mean “to find a profitable or practical use for.” Thus, the sentence “The teachers were unable to use the new computers” might mean only that the teachers were unable to operate the computers, whereas “The teachers were unable to utilize the new computers” suggests that the teachers could not find ways to employ the computers in instruction.
Prioritize has come into its own, at least for most writers. Here’s what The American Heritage College Dictionary says about prioritize:
It can be argued that prioritize serves a useful function in providing a single word to mean “arrange according to priority,” but is is often regarded as corporate or bureaucratic jargon. Resistance to prioritize, however, has fallen dramatically in recent decades. In 1976, 97 percent of the Usage Panel rejected its use in the phrase “a first attempt to prioritize the tasks facing the new administration.” By 1997, however 53 percent of the Panel approved the use of prioritize in the sentence “Overwhelmed with work, the lawyer was forced to prioritize his caseload.” This suggests that, like finalize, prioritize is rapidly securing a place in our everyday vocabulary.
Bryan A. Garner disagrees with the dictionary. He writes in Garner’s Modern English Usage:
Prioritize. Writers with sound stylistic priorities avoid [this word]. Prioritize, dating from the mid-1960s, typifies bureaucratic bafflegab. . . . Instead of prioritize, conservative writers tend to use set priorities or establish priorities. In time, of course, prioritize might lose its bureaucratic odor. But that has not yet arrived.
I’m with the dictionary. Prioritize has no odor for me!
And finalize? I’m happy to use it. I’m working to finalize this blog post right now. The American Heritage Dictionary describes the gradual acceptance of finalize:
Once considered objectionable because of its association with the language of bureaucracy, finalize is steadily gaining acceptance. In the late 1960s, 90 percent of the Usage Panel found the example “finalize plans for a class reunion” unacceptable. . . . By 1997, only 29 percent of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable in the sentence “We will send you more information once we finalize plans for the reunion.”
Garner’s Modern English Usage is on board with finalize:
The word’s advantage is that it has the compactness of a single word, as opposed to most of its equivalents: make final, put into final form, and bring to an end. Today few people object to it, and it is all but ubiquitous.
Still, complete is a better choice when it will suffice.
As Garner said, the advantage of ize words is their compactness. Why use more than one word when one conveys your meaning?
Well, sometimes a phrase, though wordier, is clearer and less cumbersome. I’d use several words rather than any of these, which appear in Merriam-Webster’s Rhyming Dictionary, Second Edition:
Those words can raise more questions with readers than answers.
Guess which word does not appear in the rhyming dictionary? Take a moment. Then scroll down to the word I’m looking for.
Troubleshootize–it’s nowhere. That’s because troubleshoot is a clear, acceptable verb. There’s no reason to elongate it.
Do any ize words drive you crazy? You may just need to get over them, but I’m happy to let you complain politely here.