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Old 08-30-2012, 05:57 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
"Insure" is only ever (to the best of my knowledge) used in the financial sense in British English, with "ensure" being used in other contexts.

Eg, "to ensure that he didn't lose money, he insured his holiday".
That's what we were taught in Advanced Grammar at the University of Texas, as well. It was high on the list of words to avoid confusing, if you don't want to risk losing a reader's respect, even though some people say it's ok.
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Old 08-31-2012, 01:43 PM   #17
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I deal with content for advertisers and this distinction comes up all the time. Pretty much what everyone has said in the last few posts is dead on.

Assure is for when someone is promising you something or putting your mind at rest: "John Smith assures you that he can find you affordable automobile coverage."

Insure is pretty specifically for financial/insurance (hence the term) or other types of directly protective situations: "Insure your car with the John Smith Agency."

Ensure is the most general, but is typically used for an implied action (as opposed to assure, which is more verbal/communicative): "I assure you that, to ensure your interests are protected, the best thing to do is see John Smith and insure your automobile."
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Old 08-31-2012, 04:21 PM   #18
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That's what we were taught in Advanced Grammar at the University of Texas, as well. It was high on the list of words to avoid confusing, if you don't want to risk losing a reader's respect, even though some people say it's ok.
This argument (not yours, UT's) is the same kind of BS that leads people to write unnatural English in an attempt to avoid splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition.

In my ideal world, an "Advanced Grammar" class would teach people to avoid shibboleths like this, even at the risk of offending some ill-informed pedant.

Of course, in my ideal world I'm emperor, too.
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Old 08-31-2012, 04:27 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Andrew H. View Post
This argument (not yours, UT's) is the same kind of BS that leads people to write unnatural English in an attempt to avoid splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition.

In my ideal world, an "Advanced Grammar" class would teach people to avoid shibboleths like this, even at the risk of offending some ill-informed pedant.

Of course, in my ideal world I'm emperor, too.
Confusing two similar sounding words that are actually spelt differently and mean entirely different things is not even remotely similar to splitting infinitives etc...
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Old 08-31-2012, 05:06 PM   #20
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Confusing two similar sounding words that are actually spelt differently and mean entirely different things is not even remotely similar to splitting infinitives etc...
Except for the fact that the words largely are synonyms, meaning that it is no less correct to write "We will leave early to ensure that we arrive on time" than to write "We will leave early to insure that we arrive on time." Both are correct (in AmE). Similarly, "Are these the books you're looking for?" and "I want to first point out some issues with this draft" are both correct despite the final preposition and split infinitive.
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Old 08-31-2012, 05:11 PM   #21
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Except for the fact that the words largely are synonyms, meaning that it is no less correct to write "We will leave early to ensure that we arrive on time" than to write "We will leave early to insure that we arrive on time." Both are correct (in AmE). Similarly, "Are these the books you're looking for?" and "I want to first point out some issues with this draft" are both correct despite the final preposition and split infinitive.
The words are not synonyms, never have been. They have very distinctly different meanings. In your example, the first is correct; the second is not. I'd like to see a cite that tells me it is acceptable to interchange the two. Even if that is forthcoming for American English, it certainly is not true of English.
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Old 08-31-2012, 05:28 PM   #22
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I don't believe that the two are synonyms.

My understanding is that the concept of insure involves the payment of money, while the concept of ensure involves to make certain.
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Old 08-31-2012, 06:26 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Bilbo1967 View Post
The words are not synonyms, never have been. They have very distinctly different meanings. In your example, the first is correct; the second is not. I'd like to see a cite that tells me it is acceptable to interchange the two. Even if that is forthcoming for American English, it certainly is not true of English.
I gave the cite upthread. It notes the American/British distinction.

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I don't believe that the two are synonyms.

My understanding is that the concept of insure involves the payment of money, while the concept of ensure involves to make certain.
You can use "ensure" and "insure" in a general sense interchangeably.

If you are talking about insurance, of course, you need to use "insure." The cite is upthread.
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:08 PM   #24
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Except for the fact that the words largely are synonyms, meaning that it is no less correct to write "We will leave early to ensure that we arrive on time" than to write "We will leave early to insure that we arrive on time." Both are correct (in AmE). Similarly, "Are these the books you're looking for?" and "I want to first point out some issues with this draft" are both correct despite the final preposition and split infinitive.
They are not synonyms--while you can use insure to mean ensure, you certainly can't do the reverse (you can't ensure your car).
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Old 09-01-2012, 12:15 AM   #25
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This argument (not yours, UT's) is the same kind of BS that leads people to write unnatural English in an attempt to avoid splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition.

In my ideal world, an "Advanced Grammar" class would teach people to avoid shibboleths like this, even at the risk of offending some ill-informed pedant.

Of course, in my ideal world I'm emperor, too.
Except that they did not take those positions. They were pretty liberal, actually. It's just that, with things like "ensure"/"insure" while you can find some dictionaries saying it's ok, there are others, and there are style guides, like the AP, iirc, that do not allow it... and since it's so widely considered an error, it's silly to use it and risk people thinking you're sloppy. It's not as though it's difficult to use an E instead of an I.

(This reminds mine of when my brother found dictionary proof that the word "irregardless" is acceptable, lol. Like ei told him, I don't think that's going to protect his reputation, unless he wants to wear the entry on his forehead. )

Last edited by Piper_; 09-01-2012 at 12:17 AM.
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Old 09-01-2012, 11:35 AM   #26
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You can use "ensure" and "insure" in a general sense interchangeably.
I suppose you can if you are happy to dumb down the language to the point of rendering it incapable of expressing nuances of thought.

The fact that many people (including, unbelievably, dictionary writers) can't be bothered to learn the distinction between "ensure" and "insure" does not make them interchangeable.
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Old 09-01-2012, 02:09 PM   #27
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The fact that many people (including, unbelievably, dictionary writers) can't be bothered to learn the distinction between "ensure" and "insure" does not make them interchangeable.
Dictionary writers aren't in charge of definitions, they just report how words are used. If replacing ensure with insure is common enough, they'll report that in their dictionaries.
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Old 09-01-2012, 04:25 PM   #28
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Dictionary writers aren't in charge of definitions, they just report how words are used. If replacing ensure with insure is common enough, they'll report that in their dictionaries.
I think it's well known that there are two different approaches to dictionary writing; the passive, reactive one you describe, and a more prescriptive approach. Personally, I prefer the latter, it stops language development being driven by the uninformed majority

I think that the majority of people I know use the word "pacific" when they mean "specific". Does that mean it should become an accepted usage and be included in dictionaries? Or should dictionaries point out the correct meaning of the two very different words?
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Old 09-01-2012, 07:14 PM   #29
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Harry, I would love to help with the 'good public domain editions' goal, but am not sure where to start. Do I download from Project Gutenberg and fix them in Sigil? Join the PG distributed proofreaders? Can you share a little more about your work process?
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Old 09-02-2012, 06:46 PM   #30
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"Insure" is only ever (to the best of my knowledge) used in the financial sense in British English, with "ensure" being used in other contexts.

Eg, "to ensure that he didn't lose money, he insured his holiday".
He assured his wife that to ensure that he didn't lose money, he insured his holiday.
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