by Dennis Buirge
This blog relates to specification writing, specifically vocabulary, and identifies the correct definitions of several heterographic terms (having same pronunciation, but different spellings and meanings) that may cause words to be incorrectly used within various documents created by the Architect/Engineer. Are you ‘sure’ when completing the following sentence using the terms assure, ensure, and insure? Please [assure, ensure, or insure] the Owner that the Contractor will [assure, ensure, or insure] to [assure, ensure, or insure] the project.
It is possible to find definitions from various sources, but when relating to construction documents, referring to the Project Resource Manual (PRM) created and distributed by The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is most appropriate. The PRM defines each of the ‘sure’ terms as follows:
- Assure: to give confidence to or convince a person of something.
- Ensure: to make certain in a way that eliminates the possibility of error.
- Insure: to issue or procure an insurance policy.
Starting out with the easiest word first, only use the word insure when dealing with insurance. It is as simple as that! This word has been observed on occasion in CDs, when in many occasions the correct word would have been ensure. The word insure is most likely to be found in Division 00 documents and Division 01 specifications. When dealing with Division 02 and higher Division specifications, ensure is most likely the appropriate word to be used. Within each specification Section, the word ensure would most likely be found within [PART 3 - EXECUTION] text, when a work scope is being identified. While [PART 1 - GENERAL] mostly deals with procurement procedures, [PART 2 - PRODUCTS] is an explanation of materials, system components, fabrication, and finishing. Only the term assure is used with reference to a person in the sense of “to set the mind at ease”. Of the three ‘sure’ verbs, it has been my experience that assure is the least used term in specification writing.
Can you now correctly use the appropriate word in each of the following sentences as they relate to safety?
1. The Contractor is obligated by Article 11 of the General Conditions to (assure, ensure, insure) the project, property, and workers against possible damage or injury.
2. The Contractor should make every effort to (assure, ensure, insure) employees and subcontractors that safety is beneficial to everyone working on the project, whether at the site or in the office. [One office safety procedure is to use a stapler remover and not one’s fingernails.]
3. The Contractor is compelled to (assure, ensure, insure) that proper conditions are taken at the site to reduce injury and damage; the Architect is not responsible for site safety.
Summary: Be ‘sure’ to use the correct word in each application, whether writing, working on, or interpreting contracts, drawings, specifications, or shop drawings, when preparing project correspondence, and when promoting products to the professional community.
Regarding the correct term usage in the aforementioned sentence examples, question 1 is insure, question 2 is assure, and question 3 is ensure. The answer to the initial question in the first paragraph is the listed order of the ‘sure’ words: assure, ensure, and insure.
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