Mighty Red Pen

August 13, 2007

Ensure versus insure

Filed under: Overseen,Word wars — mighty red pen @ 8:10 pm

insure1.jpg

Okay, here’s the deal. Generally speaking, you ensure that something will happen, and you insure something when you guarantee it against some kind of loss or harm.

However, as usual, it’s not that simple. Historically, the words insure and ensure have been used interchangeably, and you can throw assure into that crazy mix as well. Even better, the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of ensure is: “To make sure or certain; insure.” Ah, helpful.

Everyone was apparently fine with this arrangement until  — and this is something that may interest our friends over at GrammarBlog — Americans came along and mucked it all up. As the American Heritage Book of English Usage explains, “Although ensure and insure are generally interchangeable, only insure is now widely used in American English in the commercial sense of ‘to guarantee persons or property against risk.'”

As an editor, MRP will continue to differentiate between ensure and insure as I mentioned above. Here’s a helpful way (courtesy of American Heritage) to remember the difference between the three (unlike that dreadful i before e tip I mentioned the other day): I assure you that we have insured the grounds to ensure that we will be protected in case of a lawsuit stemming from an accident.

11 Comments »

  1. hello red pen,

    just dropped by to check out the latest entry in your blog…

    red just happens to be my favorite color.

    hope all is well…

    peace.

    Comment by chrisfiore5 — August 14, 2007 @ 6:58 pm | Reply

  2. For once, I’m happy with the Americanisation. The historical definitions are far too ambiguous. Good work everyone, keep it up; and do try to use less ‘Zs’.

    Comment by Gez — August 15, 2007 @ 11:13 am | Reply

    • I do believe you intended “…use fewer ‘Zs’.”

      Comment by Andrew — June 17, 2009 @ 12:04 pm | Reply

    • Pip pip, I do believe you meant to say “Americanization.” Cheerio.

      Comment by Jolly Jonny — May 17, 2011 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

    • Your name has a ‘Z’ in it, supergenius!

      Comment by Ron — May 17, 2011 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

  3. Do you have another tip for this one? Preferably one that is not so wordy?😛

    Comment by Molie — August 15, 2007 @ 5:22 pm | Reply

  4. I find it interesting that, during an argument for grammar, your very first sentence contains a rather nasty little comma splice. Tsk tsk!😉

    Comment by Rich — May 29, 2009 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  5. Comma splice: fixed. But that’s MS. MRP if you’re going to call it nasty.

    Comment by mighty red pen — May 30, 2009 @ 7:57 am | Reply

  6. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage disagrees with the AHD and says that the distinction between “ensure” and “insure” is more often made in British English than American English. Some usage commentators claim that “insure” is more common in American English, but who know what evidence the commentators have for this.

    Comment by goofy — January 7, 2010 @ 10:42 am | Reply

  7. “Here’s a helpful way (courtesy of American Heritage) to remember the difference between the three (unlike that dreadful i before e tip I mentioned the other day): I assure you that we have insured the grounds to ensure that we will be protected in case of a lawsuit stemming from an accident.”
    Can about it more?

    Comment by cryporgreen — December 16, 2010 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  8. I find it interesting that, during an argument for grammar, your very first sentence contains a rather nasty little comma splice. Tsk tsk! if you interest more information diferance ensure vs insure please visit: ensure vs insure and write more! thank you.

    Comment by Abashya Abanyarwanda — November 18, 2012 @ 4:18 pm | Reply


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