It seems one of the most frequent questions your Guru has been getting these days is about words that are similar, but have slightly nuanced meanings that can easily catch you out if you’re not paying attention. Here are a few that you should know:
Bring or Take?
Simply ask yourself: “Where is the action directed?” If it’s toward you, use bring (I asked her to bring the dictionary to our meeting). If the action is away from you, use take (I will take the dictionary back to the library afterwards).
Less or Fewer?
The easy way to remember: Fewer is used with countable things (fewer books, fewer pianos) or collective nouns (fewer people, fewer rules). Less refers to quantity and is the opposite of more (less power, less misery).
Discreet or Discrete?
Discreet means circumspect or prudent (she was very discreet about her salary). Discrete means separate or distinct, unconnected (the secret to happiness in marriage is discrete bank accounts).
Assure, Ensure, or Insure?
Your Guru’s favorite triple whammy (well, at least in terms of grammar). Assure is what we do to let people know that their needs are being met. Ensure means to make sure something will (or won’t) happen. Insure is about insurance – note the similar spelling (I assure you, this policy will ensure that your car is properly insured).
And, lastly, please note the REAL meaning of these two frequently misused words:
Enormity is defined as “an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act; the quality or state of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous; especially great wickedness.”
Disinterested means “not having a personal or financial interest at stake.” It does NOT mean uninterested, which means “bored or unconcerned.” In other words, while your CPA should not be uninterested in your tax audit, she should most definitely be disinterested in the outcome.
Keep those cards and letters coming! Your Guru is always interested in your questions, though she is disinterested in the answers and will always be certain they are accurate.