Some Troublesome Words, Part 1

By Gary Blake | January 12, 2018
What’s the difference between “insure” and ensure”? And can you differentiate among “to,” “two,” and “too”?

One claims adjuster told me this insure/ensure mix-up was one of his major pet peeves: “Ensure! Please don’t tell me you can ‘insure a good outcome’ unless you intend to sell me an insurance policy. Instead, drink Ensure and get it right! And, yes, I’ve seen ‘insure’ used wrong in professionally-printed materials more than once. The late comedian George Carlin taught me this one years ago in “Brain Droppings,” and I’ve never let it go.”

Now, we get to the confusing to-two-too of writing:

To has two functions. First, as a preposition, in which case it always precedes a noun.


  • I’m going to the store.
  • He went to Italy.
  • This belongs to David.

Secondly, to indicates an infinitive when it precedes a verb.


  • I need to study.
  • We want to help.
  • He’s going to eat.

Too also has two uses. First, as a synonym for “also”:


  • Can I go too?
  • He went to France too.
  • I think that’s Paul’s book too.

Secondly, too means excessively when it precedes an adjective or adverb.


  • I’m too tired.
  • He’s walking too quickly.
  • I ate too much.

Two is a number.


  • One, two, three…
  • I have two cars.
  • She ate two pieces of pie.

The confusion between to, too, and two occurs because the three words are pronounced identically.


  1. If you’re able to replace the word with “also” or “excessively/too much,” use too.
  2. If the word is a number, use two. Otherwise, you’ll want to use to.
Just what is the difference between “affect” and “effect”? “Healthy” or “healthful”? “Between” and “among?” And do I write “among” or “amongst”?

Okay, here we go:

Affect: Influence (e.g., I will affect the way you write.)

Effect: To bring about; result. (We will effect change within our department by looking at a problem’s cause and effect.)

Healthy: Possessing good health. (Tom is healthy).

Healthful: Conducive to good health. (Carrots are healthful).

Between: Associating or uniting in a reciprocal action or relationship. (The conflict is between Canada and Mexico).

Among: In the company of or in association with. (Paul and Marie are among my best friends.) Don’t write “amongst.”

In short, use “between” when comparing two things or people; use “among” when showing the relationship of more than two people or things. (Paul, Marie and Bob are among my best friends).

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About Gary Blake

Gary Blake is director of The Communication Workshop, offering claims writing webinars and seminars to claims professionals throughout the US, Bermuda, Canada, and the UK. Blake is the author of The Elements of Business Writing (Pearson Education), used at more than 100 insurance companies. He has written about claims writing for a number of industry publications. His e-mail is More from Gary Blake

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