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placard reading Excise the IZEs!

Guest tip: Excise the IZEs!

The tendency to add IZE to nouns is an old story in English.

The practice has been going on for centuries.

Apologize was born before 1600, and criticize appeared in Shakespeare’s day.

Revolutionize came along before 1800; burglarize first appeared in the 1870s.

Edwin Newman, in his book A Civil Tongue, suggests that by adding IZE to certain words, people believe they are achieving a more businesslike (i.e., “professional”) tone.

Prioritize may sound more businesslike than make priorities, but it is also awkward, pretentious, and incorrect.

Some IZE words are ambiguous

Take finalized. Does this mean to complete? If you finalize my contract, are you signing it? Are you just about to sign it?

The word finalize slips into vagueness by failing to tell us precisely what has been concluded. It could be the signing of a document, the agreement to the wording, the agreement to even write a contract.

Therefore, finalizing a contract is too vague and general to pass along clear meaning.

Here are a few other IZE words to be used sparingly, if at all:

  • Academize
  • Customize
  • Formalize
  • Maximize
  • Normalize
  • Optimize
  • Politicize
  • Productize*
  • Rationalize*
  • Standardize
  • Systematize*
  • Tokenize*
  • Traumatize
  • Utilize


* Four more terrible IZE words added by That White Paper Guy

The Elements of Technical Writing book cover


Excerpted with permission from

The Elements of Technical Writing

by Robert W. Bly and Gary Blake, 1993






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About Bob Bly

Robert W. Bly is one of the world's most honored copywriters. He's written 100 books including the Digital Marketing Handbook (Entrepreneur Press) and The Copywriter's Handbook(Henry Holt & Co.).

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