While subbing a news story with deadline fast approaching I came across the following: "The judge was concerned to ensure no unfair advantage had been gained." A simple enough sentence, nothing wrong there.
Normally copy flows into and out of my short-term memory (and as JD would be only too happy to confirm, my memory's awful at the best of times) but a couple of paragraphs later it was still niggling away at me. When in doubt, check it out.
Sure enough, the OED confirmed that ensure means "make sure that something will occur". The judge had no intention of ensuring anything at all; that wasn't his job. What he was doing was checking, or confirming.
Yes, I felt a smug for a second, until I reflected on how many similar nuances must pass me by during a frantic pressday, despite every effort to ensure they don't.
The ambiguous Oxford comma
1 week ago