If you deal with professional communicators, you find that some of us are word grouches. In other respects, we’re comparatively nice people. But we get a little grumpy when it comes to incorrect word usage.
For us, the AP Stylebook is never far from hand. It’s our bible, just as it is for most reporters. We counsel clients to follow AP style so their releases look familiar and comfortable to reporters—so they look professional.
Preaching that gospel isn’t always easy. For instance, most clients have never met a word that they don’t think would look better capitalized. Making secondary references to the Company is one of my favorites.
But what really makes that preaching job difficult is when clients see the media violating the tenets of the Church of AP. Here are just two examples I’ve seen recently.
Under way. In virtually every application, it should be two words, but most media mistakenly use it as one. According to AP, the only time it’s one word is as an adjective before a noun in a nautical situation: “An underway flotilla.”
The “sure” family. The members of this commonly abused trio are insure, ensure, and assure. Despite what we sometimes see in media usage, insure should only be used in connection with an actual insurance product. So, unless we’re putting somebody “in good hands” with a dandy full-term life policy, we’re ensuring that the job will be done.
And we don’t ensure people. For that we assure them—we declare confidently to them that the job will be done. In other words, we assure them that everything will be done to ensure success. And we can even insure that outcome—just sign here where it says “policyholder.”
That’s enough grouching for now. But don’t get me started on using the noun impact as a verb. You don’t want to see that.