Amend vs. Emend: What’s the Difference?

Every once in awhile writers come across a set of words that are so similar to each other that they aren’t sure what the difference is. Either that or they use the words so infrequently that they forgot (or never knew to begin with) the difference between them.

Such is the case with amend vs. emend. One of these two words we use quite frequently; the other word is one some writers aren’t aware exists.

What is the Difference Between Amend and Emend?

Today, I want to talk about the definitions of these two words, their histories, how to use them in a sentence, and what sets them apart from each other.

After reading this post you shouldn’t have any difficulty choosing amend or emend in your next written work.

When to Use Amend

what is the definition of amendAmend (pronounced uh-mend), which is the older of the two English words, is a verb, meaning to change for the better or add to; to alter the working to make more suitable, accurate, acceptable, up-to-date, etc.

  • Have you amended your will to reflect these changes?
  • I will amend the contracts once I get back to the office.
  • Congress amended the bill before it became law.

To amend something is to try to make it better by changing the way it currently is. The most common use of it is in government where politicians will amend laws. They do this oftentimes by proposing amendments. Amendment is the noun form of the verb amend.

Amend is also commonly used in contexts of personal behavior.

  • If you can amend his mindset, he will become successful.

As I said above, amend is the older of the two words, making its way into English in the 13th century from the French word amender. The French spelling had gone from an “e” to an “a” several centuries before entering English.

Emend, on the other hand, came into English a few centuries after amend and retains a more Latin spelling. Both words originate from the same Latin word ēmendāre, which means to remove fault.

When to Use Emend

the meaning of amend versus emend grammar rulesThe word emend (pronounced ih-mend) is also a verb, meaning to correct text; to improve by critical editing.

  • After proofing the text, I emended several typos.
  • I looked over your data set and emended two of the entries.
  • Based on these new discoveries, the date of his death may need to be emended.

If you are an author, your editor might do a lot of emending to your work before publication.

As you can clearly see by their definitions and uses, emend and amend emphasize different things. They both center on change of some kind, but their emphasis is different. To amend something is to change it for the better. To emend something is to fix an error.

Remember the Difference

Knowing whether to use emend or amend can be tough, but I have a few easy tricks to keep them separated.

Amend has to do with making changes to documents or laws. Amend, changes, and laws all contain the letter “A.”

Emend has to do with correcting errors in text, something an editor might do. Emend, error, and editor all start with the letter “E.”

Summary

The two words emend vs. amend cannot be use interchangeably in all contexts, so it’s important we know when to use which word.

Amend is to change something, usually a document or personal behavior, to make it better.

Emend is to correct something, usually in a text, to fix an error.