In the past week I have read writing samples from two high-level managers in two different industries, both with the same mistake. They both used the word assure incorrectly. So even though I have covered ensure-assure-insure before, it must be time for a reminder.
One manager wrote something like this:
"My job is to assure that we have the resources we need to succeed."
The other wrote a sentence like this one:
"We assure that all controls and safeguards are in place."
The word assure is wrong in their sentences. What should it be? Ensure? Insure?
The word they wanted is ensure–in both sentences.
Here's how to think about it: We assure people. We do not assure things.
These are correct examples with assure:
I assure you [a person] that this mistake will not happen again.
Please assure Dr. Reed [a person] that her ride will be waiting for her.
He [a person] wants to be assured that the business writing class is not too basic.
Ensure means "to make sure things happen or do not happen":
We must ensure that this mistake does not happen again.
Please ensure that Dr. Reed's ride is waiting for her.
The instructor ensures that the course is not too basic by using actual case studies.
Insure belongs in sentences about insurance (underwriting financial risk):
Are we insured against mistakes like that?
Insure the furniture for its replacement cost, not its original cost.
We insure businesses, farms, and families.
I assure you that I have ensured the correctness of the examples above–despite not having grammatical malpractice insurance!
Do you want to find out what you know and don't know about the rules of writing? Get my Error Quests, and test your writing wisdom in 50 short paragraphs, each with just one error. Can you find it?