Communicators, are you confusing these verbal cousins?

Are you assuming or presuming? Ensuring or insuring? Sometimes it can be confusing. Here are how you can be certain you’re using the right term.

Most public relations professionals relay on their spell checkers.

Looking for red underlings to help identity misspelled words can provide a misleading confirmation of accuracy.

If those first two sentences weren’t like nails on a chalk board, you definitely should read this post.

Technology is our friend, right? Well, while we all cozied up to spell-check, it decided we could use the wrong word as long as it was spelled correctly. Here is where you can get into trouble.

No problem, we have a Word to the Wise: Here are five little bandit groups that PR professionals must watch before they undermine the credibility of your professional communications.

1. Accept, Except, and Expect

Accept is a verb that means “to take in.” The preposition except means “other than.” The verb expect means to “depend on” or “await.”

• All public relations pros, except those who are very old school, accept the influence of social media. We expect it to be part of our planning now.

2. Affect and Effect

Affect is a verb meaning “to influence.” Effect is a noun meaning “result.” When used as a verb, effect means “to cause.”

• PR campaigns affect the media in various ways. Understanding is a natural effect of clear communication.

3. Assume and Presume; Assumption and Presumption

Assume means (1) to take upon oneself; to take over duties and responsibilities; or (2) to take for granted or without proof. Presume means (1) to take for granted or without proof; or (2) to undertake without permission.

• We’ve all attended social functions where someone seems to know it all and makes the assumption that people enjoy hearing his vast input. We cannot make the presumption that he will stop talking on his own, unless we have been in his company before and know this is true.

4. Attain and Obtain

The word attain means to achieve, accomplish, or succeed in reaching a goal; obtain means to acquire or get possession of something.

• There can be no guarantee that your public relations campaign will attain its expected results or obtain more clients for your business, although that is always the goal.

5. Assure, Ensure, and Insure

The verbs assure, ensure, and insure all mean “to make certain or secure.” Use assure for people, ensure for things, and insure for money and guarantees (insurance).

• These grammatical recommendations can help ensure you write professional press releases. Although LTPR does not insure you for spelling mistakes, we can assure you that the more professional your presentation—especially when it comes to the accuracy of your word choices—the more success you will have in relaying your message.

These represent just five of our examples. What are yours?

Jennifer Hanson is a writing and editing partner at LT Public Relations (@LTPR), a firm based in Portland, Oregon, that specializes in the financial sector. A version of this story originally appeared on the company’s blog.

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