This is part of the dif­fer­ence between series.

Hav­ing worked in a uni­ver­si­ty for over 6 years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing. The only thing worse than aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing is busi­ness writ­ing. Con­sid­er­ing I work in a fac­ul­ty of man­age­ment, I get to see the worst of both worlds. Appar­ent­ly, there isn’t much in the way of gram­mar instruc­tion in order to get a PhD.

Any­how.

A com­mon mis­take I see in writ­ing is the con­fu­sion of insure and ensure. For exam­ple:

Please insure every­one is invit­ed to the meet­ing.

Nev­er mind the wordi­ness and the pas­sive voice, this sen­tence is say­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent from what was intend­ed.

The speak­er wants to make sure that every­one knows about an upcom­ing meet­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, using insure implies that the per­son to whom the com­mand is giv­en is to take out an insur­ance pol­i­cy regard­ing the invi­ta­tions.

Insure

Insure means to issue an insur­ance pol­i­cy.

  • Before you move into your new house, you need to insure it.
  • You should insure your­self and your fam­i­ly against death and injury.

Ensure

Ensure, on the oth­er hand, means to guar­an­tee or make sure.

  • Please ensure every­one is invit­ed to the meet­ing.
  • Ensure all dogs are kept on leash in city parks.

Some may dis­agree with this stance and claim the two terms are inter­change­able, but I’m not will­ing to accept that quite yet. I am a pro­po­nent of clear, unam­bigu­ous sen­tences. By sep­a­rat­ing these two mean­ings, we encour­age peo­ple to clear­ly say what they mean.

Let me know if you have any gram­mar ques­tions, and I’ll be sure to post the ques­tion and answer here.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness. Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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