The assure vs. insure vs. ensure has been discussed frequently on this site. But I came across a New Yorker article, which has excellent editing, which uses "insure" when it seemingly should have used "ensure." Here's the sentence in question, talking about a jumpshot in basketball:

The shooting elbow travels upward on a narrow path within inches of the torso, to insure an efficient and steady glide; the other arm folds over, framing the face of the shooter.

I hesitate to second guess the editors at the New Yorker, but shouldn't that be "ensure"?

  • 4
    Evidently, the two words, "insure" and "ensure" are interchangeable today. I would've gone with ensure, as you did. I have a feeling (and it's just a feeling) that in the evolution of language, when two words which at one time denoted two different things begin to be denoted by hoi polloi (and even New Yorker editors) the same, those two words eventually become interchangeable. Take "anxious" and "eager" for example. I'll bet a majority of folks do not know the difference between the two. Consequently, many (most?) folks use "anxious," even when what they mean is "eager." Don Jun 1, 2016 at 0:52
  • @rhetorician They are actually the same word originally, but I had been under the impression the two spellings were universally used differently.
    – Angelos
    Jun 2, 2016 at 21:24

2 Answers 2


I certainly agree with you. That just looks wrong. I would have assumed it was a mistake (even in the New Yorker) if it weren't for this blog post (ca. 2012) that says the New Yorker style guide actually says they use "insure" for both meanings.

See the last paragraph of the answer to the first question on this page:


Why the New Yorker would make such an editorial decision is another question.


British English would still use "ensure". The New Yorker presumably uses the other variety.

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    FWIW, I think both AmE and BrE dialects should make this difference, but AmE increasingly just doesn't in popular use (ODO). Jun 2, 2016 at 21:11

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