More hints for confusing words

May 22, 2009

A year ago, I posted some hints for troublesome words — mnemonics that might help you remember what word to use in a particular context. Here are some more.

There, they’re, their

Try this mnemonic for “there”: “Where [is it]? There [it is]!” (how you spell “where” is how you spell “there”)

For “they’re”, try saying the word as the phrase “they are” — if “they are” works in the sentence, then use “they’re”.

For “their”, think in terms of possession. “I have it” means that “I” possess it, so if there’s any sense of possession in the context, you must use “their” (it has the “I” of possession).

None of these mnemonics are from anywhere except my own head, but they may be useful to you.

Ensure, insure, assure

One thing that always surprises me when I visit the US and see the TV commercials, is the way these words are used interchangeably.

My rule of thumb is:

  • Ensure = make sure (in fact, I usually replace the term “ensure” with “make sure” for Plain English reasons and so there is NO doubt as to what “ensure” might mean)
  • Insure = make secure by taking out an INSURance policy
  • Assure = make the person feel secure by reASSURing them

Then, than

This one is misused so often!

Like the “Where? There!” example above, use “When? Then!” when talking about something that is related to time/date or sequence.

[Links last checked March 2009]

One comment

  1. […] there (place), their (belonging to them; people), they’re (they are) […]

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