Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Amend or emend?

with 3 comments

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...
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Confusingly, these words are similar but not identical in meaning.

Emend means to make corrections and revisions to a text. For example:

I will emend the introduction to my report.

The article has several spelling mistakes and needs to be emended.

Amend can also be used to mean making minor changes to a text. But it can also be used in other contexts. For example:

The legislation needs to be amended to take account of changing circumstances.

I will amend the rule so it is fairer.

She should amend her dissolute lifestyle.

I feel guilty and will make amends.

How to remember the difference:

Remember the difference between ‘emend’ and ‘amend’ by thinking of the ‘e’ in ‘text’ — this is the letter the word ‘emend’ starts with, and ‘emend’ relates only to text.

More commonly confused words

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Written by Wordwatch

01/12/2009 at 3:01 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Hi Deborah,

    Yikes! I had no idea that the word ’emend’ existed. When I make changes or corrections to legal documents like affidavits I refer to them as ‘amendments’, as most lawyers I know do. I imagine if I correct this error and use ’emendment’ from now on, many other lawyers will assume that I’m making a mistake. Ha! Let them be smug. I’ll refer them to you if I get any grief 🙂

    Jo-Anne Moore

    03/04/2010 at 2:54 pm

    • Hi, Jo-Anne — you are definitely not wrong to refer to your amends as amends! ‘Amend’ can be used to mean ‘make minor changes to a text’.

      However, ’emend’ can be used only in relation to text, or in relation to ’emending’ a mistake. For example: The date of the battle has been emended to 1548.

      Deborah

      03/04/2010 at 3:11 pm

      • I must admit I’m quite relieved to know that I haven’t been making a glaring error. Phew! And thank you again very much for the clarification.

        Jo-Anne Moore

        03/04/2010 at 10:56 pm


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