Word Choice – Inutility: Is it a word?

Tony’s question: “I came across a word in a report written by someone. The writer used ‘inutility’ instead of ‘lack of utility’ to describe the use of land. I have always used lack of utility. But is ‘inutility’ a word, and does it have a similar meaning as lack of utility?”

BizWritingTip response: This question was intriguing. I have never heard of the word and two of my dictionaries did not reference it. However, I did find it in some on-line dictionaries.

Apparently, the word comes originally from the Latin word inutilis meaning not useful. It was then used in Old French and Middle English, gaining popularity in the 1400s.

The adjective form is inutile, meaning of no use or service.

Last Christmas, I received a number of inutile gadgets for my kitchen.

It is definitely a word. The writer was correct. However, unless you are positive your reader is familiar with the term, my advice — don’t use it. Remember the key to effective writing: write to your reader. If standard dictionaries don’t carry the word, and your software program has red lined it, chances are your reader will be confused.