Make Your Editor Cry: Amend vs. Emend

Make Your Editor Cry:  Amend vs. Emend

To amend is to change for the better, to put right, or to alter by adding. The word’s corresponding noun is amendment. Amend is the source of the verb mend, which today is similarly defined but more broad and informal.

Emend is a word that is very dear to me, personally. It means to improve by editing. Its corresponding noun is emendation. Emend is rare because it’s mainly confined to contexts related to professional writing and editing.

They share a Latin root in ēmendāre, which means, roughly, to remove fault. The older amend came to English, around the 13th century, via French, where the –e in the Latin word had become an –a several centuries before. Emend came to English a couple of centuries later.

Examples:

The editors emend the text to contain a comma rather than a colon after “merchants” in the second paragraph.
If passed, the bill would amend the current law so that that only people age 18 to 21 would be required to register to vote.

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