Writing Pet Peeves: Let Me Assure You
By Kathy Wilson – ETMG Writer/Editor
Whether to use assure, ensure, or insure—that is the question.
Here are a couple of recently edited examples where the content owner made the wrong choice:
“URLs are the top search engine criteria, so it is important to take needed steps to assure [should be ensure] that your business is listed at the top of search results.”
“The failsafe capabilities of this product have been designed to insure [should be ensure] a smooth transition following unexpected failures.”
In the documents that I review, these three words seem to get mixed up frequently, even though they have distinctly different meanings.
Assure means to promise or to reassure and is always in reference to a person. “I can assure you of that.” “He assured his sister that he would pay back the loan.”
Ensure means to make sure or make certain. “It is important to take needed steps to ensure that your customers are satisfied with your service.”
Insure typically refers to insurance and means to protect against loss. “State Farm insures its policy holders against theft, fire, and flood.”
There is one more common mistake specific to the word “ensure” that is on my pet peeves list—the missing “that.” This applies when ensure is followed by a sentence rather then just a noun or sentence fragment. Here are a couple of recent examples:
“Careful planning and management is required to ensure [that] the infrastructure supporting the manufacturing operation has adequate capacity to support all robotic units.”
“Techniques are required to ensure [that] end users enjoy a quality experience, even in the face of fluctuating network capacity.”
Stay tuned for more pet peeves in upcoming blogs.