Ensure or Make Sure? (Summary - LONG)

Subject: Ensure or Make Sure? (Summary - LONG)
From: Mary Moore 1569 <mmoore -at- CHIPCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 1995 13:14:00 PDT

On July 10 I posted a message asking if you use "ensure" or "make sure"
in your documentation and why. I have summarized all who mailed directly to
or posted on the list as of July 26. My apologies to any I missed.

Here is the final tally:

Ensure - 11
Make Sure - 2
Be Sure - 2.5
Neither - 2
Verify - 2.5
Make certain - 1

You'll notice a couple of strange numbers (2.5). Whenever a person said he
or she commonly used two of the words, I gave each word half a point. I
added some new words that people used instead.

Some interesting observations:

* Many noted that one problem is that some writers use INSURE
when they really should use ENSURE.

* Some said they never really thought about it until I
mentioned it.

* More than one person said the reason they used a particular word
was because it was the existing style, but one person said "We have
no internal style guide directing us away from any of these."

* One person noted that "I would 'be certain' that I used 'that' after
either 'ensure' or 'make sure.'"

* I realized that one of the suggestions, "verify," is what I used at other
companies, and that sounds much better to my ear, so maybe I'll start using

There were a lot of great comments, and I'd be happy to mail the entire set
if anyone is interested. To save bandwidth, though, I'll list just a few
of the interesting responses that were posted directly to me and not
to the list:

* "...Simplified English (PSC-85-16598) states that 'ensure' is not an
approved word and that 'make sure' must be used instead."

* "I work within the government (Civil Service). The preferred word for
us is 'ENSURE.' However, we have some people who insist the proper
word is 'INSURE.' To me, if people tend to make that kind of stupid
error, they SHOULD use 'MAKE SURE' (IMHO)."

*"I work almost exclusively on military manuals and use ensure in most

*"We use ensure for Canadian Armed Forces technical publications, BUT, we
are in the process of developing an SE (simplified english) lexicon for
them. We are basing this lexicon on what has already been developed by AMECA

where the verb ensure is not an approved word, but is replaced by the phrase

make sure."

*"We use ensure commonly in our SOPs, but mostly for administrative tasks.
(ensure all paperwork is turned in on time). In the example you used, we try
to use more specific verbs. Turn knob to the right to tighten, or check
to ensure the seals are tight. We usually state the action needed to be able
to 'ensure' something is right."

*"As an American who now lives in Australia and who has regular contact
with people from *many* countries where English is the official language,
ensure is the preferred expression. English speakers (native or not) from
almost every country would immediately recognise ensure. A second point,
been my experience that in for many people 'make sure' has a subtle but
paternalistic feel more like an order than an instruction. It's easy to
that many countries, besides the US, use English as the primary language and

what might sound 'stuffy' to your ear sounds correct to their ears. As well,

what you have been taught is 'common English' may be in fact, 'common

Thanks to all who posted.

Mary M. Moore (mmoore -at- chipcom -dot- com)
Standard Disclaimer: The opinions I express (or report) here are not
necessarily that of my employer.

Previous by Author: Ensure or Make sure?
Next by Author: Re: Training materials--help? Long post follows.
Previous by Thread: Acrobat Distiller/Word Users
Next by Thread: Quality docs to meet contractual obligations

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads