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To Assure You About “Assure”

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!


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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