RE: Insure vs. Ensure, was Re: Should we hire this guy?

Subject: RE: Insure vs. Ensure, was Re: Should we hire this guy?
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000 13:22:42 -0700 (PDT)

--- Lisa Wright <liwright -at- uswest -dot- net> wrote:
> Stan Xiao says:
> "Check the dictionary... insure and ensure are synonymous."
> I say: Maybe you should do the same. And perhaps look at a style guide.
> Ensure: v. To make sure, certain, or safe.
> Insure: v. (1) to provide or obtain insurance on or for.
> For MOST technical writers, insure is used to refer only to using an
> insurance policy to indemnify the policy holder against loss. While the
> secondary definition for insure is similar to the one for ensure, most
> technical writers don't (and in my not-very-humble opinion _should_ not) use
> them the same way. I believe the AP style guide has a similar listing, as
> does the Microsoft Style Guide, which says, "Insure: Do not use except to
> refer to insurance. Use _ensure_ to mean "to make certain."

At the risk of stepping in where only fools may tread...

From "American Usage and Style: The Consensus" by Roy H. Copperud:

ensure, insure: Interchangeable in the sense make certain--"Hard work will
ensure success"; "Careful workmanship insures quality"--but _insure_ has a
noticeable edge. _Insure_ is the only form for 'guarantee against loss'. Flesch
says _ensure_ means only 'make certain', and _insure_ only 'guarantee against
loss', but this is an imaginary distinction recognized nowhere else (NB: he
didn't know about MS Manual of Style), including the major dictionaries.

Having quoted all that, I would add one final caveat. One of the important uses
of style guides is to resolve locally all distinctions of spelling, grammar,
punctuation, and usage where the particular house or department feels such a
need to do so. What that means is that is this grand fluid thing called
English, everybody can be right.

Personally, unless I knew for fact certain that MOST Technical Writers did
something, I wouldn't make such a sweeping statement. How many people even know
most TWs.

Ain't this fun!

Tom Murrell
Senior Technical Writer
Alliance Data Systems
Columbus, Ohio
mailto:trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com

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