Imagine you are a waiting in the dentist’s office glancing at the random wall postings around the receptionist’s area to pass the time. You see a sign that reads, “To assure your appointment goes smoothly, please arrive 15 minutes early.”
While the sign may appear harmless, what it’s just done is reduce your faith in the dentist’s prowess in working on your pearly whites. If the dentist cannot choose the correct word for such a simple sign, you might start to question whether he can select the correct tool to clean your teeth. Perhaps instead of cleaning your teeth, he might accidentally pull one for example.
Consider another scenario. You submit a resume and are called in for an interview (which based on the following is probably unlikely). Your prospective employer points to a spot on your resume where you have listed the following:
“Consistently insures quality work in a timely manner.”
At this point, you’re thinking, “Yep, that’s me. I stand behind that statement.”
Meanwhile, your interviewer is thinking, “Really? Are the premiums reasonable? Does this dope actually think I’d hire him when he cannot even write properly?”
These examples might seem extreme, but in reality, they have merit. When you choose the wrong word, regardless of whether it is because you don’t know the difference or because you simply didn’t realize the words are spelled differently, your credibility is called into question. With it, everything you write beyond that point is consciously or subconsciously questioned by readers who know the difference.
“Ensure” and “insure” are homonyms and are often confused, which in some cases is probably just attributed to a spelling error. “Assure” is also lumped in with these words. All three are guilty of having somewhat similar meanings. Like many words in the English language though, these three words have nuances in meaning that make all the difference. Here’s a brief definition for each:
Assure: to encourage or promise that something is going to happen
Ensure: something you do to make sure a particular outcome occurs; your actions guarantee it
Insure: includes a financial obligation, usually in the form of premiums; to indemnify
To help you remember the difference, keep the following in mind:
You assure someone else.
Think of it as what 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney has failed to do for many conservatives with his constant flip-flopping on issues.
You ensure something is going to happen.
If you are claiming “Justin Bieber made me do it,” as Ashton Kutcher says is the reason for his recent multi-million dollar mansion purchase, you ensure that you receive some fanfare in the media for an otherwise uneventful purchase.
You insure your car.
Unless you’re J-Lo or one of 19 other celebs who value your body parts enough to take out insurance on them.
Learn the difference, and who knows, that knowledge might save your teeth or land you a job in some roundabout way in the future. One thing it does for certain is allow your readers to maintain confidence in what you have to say.