Posted by: Jack Henry | March 12, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Assume and Presume

Have you ever wondered if assume and presume mean the same thing? Do you ever even use the word presume? Are you worried that if you do, you’ll sound like the 19th century explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who, after searching throughout Africa for some time, finally found fellow explorer and missionary Dr. Livingston and greeted him by saying, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”

Do you wonder why Morton used the word presume instead of assume?

To answer all my questions, let’s first look at some definitions:

  • Assume means to suppose something to be the case without proof
  • Presume means to suppose something to be the case based on probability or evidence

So, you assume something when you really have no idea, and you presume something when you have reason to believe it could be right or true. These days, people seem to use assume in both cases. But as I’ve said before, we’re not most people. We’re nerds who care about using just the right word in just the right situation. You’re with me, I presume?

In case you have trouble remembering which word means what, here’s a useful, work appropriate mnemonic: presume and proof both start with the letter p. To presume something is to suppose that it is true based on proof.

There you go! Enjoy the rest of your day.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

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