>Rest assured you’re not the first person to be tripped up by insure, ensure, and assure. And for good reason -- there is a fair amount of leeway in the usage of these words.
But while a dictionary may state that it’s okay to use insure in a context other than insurance, and assure to mean “guarantee,” many style guides have stricter guidelines.
AP style, for instance, assigns one meaning to each word:
“Use ensure to mean guarantee . . . insure for references to insurance . . . assure to mean to make sure or give confidence.”
This approach simplifies the matter and makes the definitions easier to memorize. While you could defend your usage by pointing to Merriam-Webster, style guides often trump dictionaries.
Thanks for visiting Copy Editor’s Corner! Every month, we’ll get to the bottom of a common copyediting conundrum. In this inaugural post we’ll address the homophones affect and effect.
Let’s start with the two meanings we encounter most often. The following sentences are examples of proper usage:
"A candidate’s debate performance can affect the outcome of an election."
"Amanda’s exercise routine had a salutary effect on her health."
But this next sentence is correct, too. It introduces the word effect as a verb, which means “to bring about.”
Jamie wants a president who will effect change, but she doesn’t know what effect each candidate's proposed policies will have on her life.
(Of course, we don’t recommend using effect twice in the same sentence.)
Finally, affect can be used as a noun, but such usage is rare. Why? Because it is a term used in psychology to describe a person’s mood or emotions. For example, a psychiatrist might describe a patient’s affect as irritable or flat.
Mastering the many meanings of effect and affect will most certainly have a positive effect on your affect.