Make Your Editor Cry: Assure, Insure, Ensure

Make Your Editor Cry:  Assure, Insure, Ensure

The words assure, ensure, and insure all mean “to make secure or certain.” However, only assure is used with reference to a person in the sense of “to set the mind at rest”

Correct:

Sir Lancelot duplicitously assured King Arthur of his loyalty.

To assure is to remove doubt, or confidently tell someone about something. It’s generally followed by an object, so you assure someone. You can also tell someone to rest assured when you know everything’s under control.

Although ensure and insure are generally interchangeable, only insure is now widely used in the commercial sense of “to guarantee persons or property against risk.” Think of using insure only when there is some type of policy and associated premium involved, like when you need some insurance. To insure is to arrange for financial compensation against the loss of something or against someone getting hurt or dying. You might insure your health, your Cadillac, your island condo, or your stocks and bonds.

Ensure, on the other hand, means to make certain a thing will (or won’t) happen.

In other words, I assure you that you can ensure that you insure your car, but rest assured that you cannot insure that you ensure your car. To interchange these two is considered archaic and wrong.

Incorrect:

He rushed to insure a coveted spot near the front of the theater.

Correct:

He rushed to ensure a coveted spot near the front of the theater.

Incorrect:

He locked his car and set the alarm, assuring that no one would steal his stereo.

Correct:

He locked his car and set the alarm, ensuring that no one would steal his stereo.

Incorrect:

He wanted to ensure his car so that he could obtain legal tags.

Correct:

He wanted to insure his car so that he could obtain legal tags.

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