Friday, November 30, 2007

Ensure Versus Assure Versus Insure

These three words lie so close together in the aural, and oral, worlds that using them on the page can confuse even the most practiced writer. Today we’ll look at the differences between the three words so that we can remember which applies in which situations.

Let’s dispose of the easiest first. Insure means only one thing: to cause an insurance policy to be in effect for something. You can insure your car, your house, even your health. It only sounds like ensure.

People most often employ ensure as a more formal version of “make sure”. You ensure or verify that something possesses a certain quality, like that your marbles fit in the category of lost: “One more change to this project will ensure that I lose my marbles.”

In contrast, you assure another person. I suppose your could assure any object, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, but you’d be wasting your breath. You can assure me that there will be no further changes, and I will be reassured. (That’s because you already told me that you were finished with the changes before the last change.)

When you assure someone (such as, say, your dog) of something, you are essentially giving your word that you are telling the truth. Try assuring your dog that you’ve fed him and see how impressed he looks when he finds food in his dish.

Now, when you write, “He assured me that he had ensured that the insured were invited,” you can rest assured that you have used the words correctly. Your writing style, on the other hand…