This is the first in a new series of wildly off-topic and self-consciously pedantic items concerning grammar, usage, diction, punctuation, &c. We'll post on this topic when we feel like it, which is to say when we see something on television, in print, or online that strikes us as both (1) erroneous and (2) representative of some broader pattern of misuse.
Today's motivating item is the following CNBC chyron (emphasis on the error):
"E*Trade takes out ad in WSJ to ensure investors their money is safe."
The beauty of the English language is that we have different words for different concepts. For example, ensure means to make something (more or less) certain, assure means to make someone (more or less) certain, and insure means to provide some sort of guarantee against a potential loss, as in the business of insurance.
Example: "E*Trade moved to assure investors that their assets are safe by ensuring that the firm had set aside adequate loan-loss reserves. Fortunately, most individual investors' assets would be insured by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation."
Sadly, these words get mixed up all the time. To her credit, however, it sounded like Maria Bartiromo used "assure" instead of "ensure" in her voiceover.
Now back to your regularly scheduled finance material...
(And for old times' sake...Download Writing Tips--Spring 2003)