Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Insure / Ensure / Assure

A short lesson today, focusing on the difference between insure, ensure and assure.  Let me start by saying that some sources insist there is no difference between insure and ensure. Most, however, agree with me that in standard American English there is a huge difference.  If you follow these guidelines, no one will ever say you're wrong.  Why take the chance?

To insure means to guarantee payment if something happens.  Money nearly always changes hands. If you're actually buying insurance, you are insuring something:  He insured the old jalopy for much more than I thought it was worth.

If you are acting to make sure something happens, you are ensuring that it will:  If you can substitute be sure or make sure, the word you're looking for is ensure.  I will put up a gate to ensure my grandson doesn't fall down the steps. 

If you are trying to instill confidence in a person or animal, you will assure them.  Assure applies to a living being.  In fact, it's nearly always followed by a noun referring to a person (you, him, her, etc.):  I assured him that his child would be safe near the steps. 

Remember:  Insure -- money changes hands. Assure relates to something alive.  Ensure is to be sure or to make sure.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


(Miscellany - a miscellaneous collection or group of various or somewhat unrelated items.  Dictionary.com, Unabridged)

Let’s look at words that aren’t really words at all.  We hear or read them often, but I want you to remove them from your vocabulary.  Some are real words but -- I don’t mean to sound rude here -- are considered “nonstandard” or "substandard" English, and none of us want to sound substandard!  So here we go, in no particular order. 

Anyways, I’m not going anywheres.  Anyways and anywheres are not plural, say anyway or anywhere.

We headed towards town.  Same thing, just say toward.

She was a long ways from homea is singular, ways is plural.  Please don’t use them together.  She was a long way from home.

Something’s got ahold of me.  This one is in a gray territory.  Ahold not considered “good” English but is used so commonly it’s nearly there.  Most dictionaries now include it, but call it informal or colloquial.  Better to say something’s got a hold of me.

There is alot going on this weekend.  Alot is not a word in any dictionary. Please use a lot.  (Don't confuse  with allot, which means to divide or to set aside.)

The reason why is because I said so.  Please just give the reason, you don’t need to add why or because.  The reason is I said so.

I borrowed ten dollars to my friend; she borrowed me twenty last week.  We borrow from, we loan to, so I loaned her ten after she loaned me twenty is correct.  (Well, it would be correct if either of us had actually asked.)

He got that for free.  No, he got it free.  The for is unnecessary.

The box was two feet in length, width and heighth.   Length and width are correct, but the last word should be height.

Irregardless of advice from others, he (insert whatever he did now.  We know there’s something! LOL).  Irregardless amounts to a double negative, just say regardless.

Could of, would of, should of – It’s could have, would have, and should have.  Or, less formally, use the contractions could’ve, would’ve, or should’ve.

Use to, suppose to – This gets into passive voices and past participles, so save yourself a headache and just take my word for it.  Write supposed to and used to.

Had enough for one day?  Have a blessed Easter and I'll catch you next week!