When administrators within a school district cannot produce an email that uses the correct words for the context, people lose confidence in the quality of education provided to the students. Recently, I received an email, forwarded to me, that simply stated that they wanted to "insure" that the correct procedures were followed. Not only is this passive voice, insure is not the correct word for the context. If they were buying an insurance policy, then insure would work. They were not.
Insure = monetary value
ensure = guarantee
It may seem petty and silly to call out something like this, but, I cannot fathom how we will be able to communicate over the next 100 years if we cannot agree on some basic rules of language. How can we continue to buy and sell and be sure (see, be sure could have a reasonable replacement word: ensure) that we are getting what we expect and that the price we pay is valid? Language is how.
Believe me, i am not one of these 'Americans' that want to force everyone to use English or get the hell out. I am not that arrogant. We know that there have been all sorts of issues with meanings getting "lost in translation," such as "ich bin ein berliner." I just want to be sure that we are using this agreed upon form of communication well enough to understand each other.
Based on my 16 years of experience, as a trainer for software installations, vocabulary is the single worst offender toward the failure to assimilate new information. If we aren't both talking about a pot, how can we be sure we know how to cook with it?
I know that language does morph and change over time and I certainly don't want to go back to a world where everything is so formal we are afraid to speak and share our opinions. However, we do need to make sure our message is clear and correct as we can possibly make it.
Caryn Morgan, corporate trainer, obtained her Masters Degree in Adult Education and Training