Ensure, Assure, Insure?

Subject: Ensure, Assure, Insure?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Kirk Turner <royj -at- alltel -dot- net>
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2006 10:31:58 -0400

Kirk Turner reports: <<I am having a debate with a client over usage. I've looked in all the reference sources, but I'd appreciate the options of experienced writers.>>

Well, the first step is to agree on which dictionary you'll be using from now on. Once you've done that, there's really not a lot to debate: just follow the dictionary. <g>

<<In the following sentences, which use of ensure/assure is correct?>>

One very common usage is as follows: "Let me assure you: you have now insured yourself for enough money to ensure that your heirs will try to do away with you as soon as possible." That's not universal (there are likely to be U.K. vs. North American usage differences, among others), but it's certainly the usage distinction I've grown up with and enforced in my own editing. fwiw, In 20 years, nobody's quibbled with those distinctions... but that may just be my choice of clients.

That being the case, I'd go with the following: "The information presented also ensures that the project will be delivered on time..."

<<Is there a way to avoid the use of assure/ensure/insure?>>

If you're willing to indulge me for a moment in substantive editing, I'd note that the information itself does nothing; on the contrary, some human uses it do do something, and focusing on the actor who uses the information is clearer and arguably more correct. Thus, you could with some justice say something like the following: "The information will help the project members deliver on time..."

But if you won't buy that logic, any thesaurus will show you a range of alternatives for pretty much any word in the English language. "Guarantee" is a good one if you're really certain, but since "ensure" only rarely means "provide certainty" in the real world, "increases the likelihood that..." is another option.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Ensure, Assure, Insure: From: Kirk Turner

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