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Strictly Speaking

Precipitating Confusion


Rain, meaning to precipitate the liquid state of water, is not the same as reign, meaning to preside over and govern a kingdom, although both words can be used either in the form of a noun or a verb. If spelled properly and used as properly in sentences, neither a spell checker nor a grammar checking program will inform the writer that the wrong word has been used.

This provides an example of a general problem, where a word has been heard and is put down in writing according to the most familiar spelling, without checking for meaning(s). Currently it happens even in leading newspapers, and the results range – when read as presented – from the humorous to the incomprehensible.

With homonyms, the listener does not know whether the speaker can spell the word, because it sounds identical in both forms. In novels and plays, but not often movies, wordplay can intentionally add to the complexity, confusion or humor, and savvy audiences pick up on this immediately. But when these mistakes appear in formal, business or diplomatic writing, alert readers may justifiably scratch the author off their list of permitted e mail senders. Read More 
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Ensure or Insure?


Spelled this way, and this way only, ensure means to take measures, actions, employ policies or provide economic incentives of such force and breadth that a desired result occurs. It is quite as different in meaning from insure as it is distinct in spelling. Insure means to offer and indemnity, usually monetary, in the event that an undesired action does occur. One word implies active measures, the other provides a contingency or compensation, an implicit admission by taking out insurance that something can, indeed, happen, in ways over which one cannot control. More often are the British right in the employment of this word, in spoken and written form, than are their American cousins. Read More 
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