March 9, 2007


emend (e-mend) tr.v. emended, emending, emends
To improve by critical editing: emend a faulty text
[Middle English emenden, from Latin emendare : e-, ex + mendum, defect, fault.]
mend'er n.

mendate (e'-men-date, e-MEN'-date) tr.v. -dated, -dating, -dates
To make textual corrections in. --e'
mendator' n. --emen'datory adj.

mendation (ee'menda'shen, e'men-) n.
1.The act of emending.
2. An alteration intended to improve: textual emendations made by the editor.
--The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000. aka AHD4.


Note that each definition above includes the word text. Emend and its cognates concern the editing, correcting, and altering of texts or manuscripts in order to improve them. Teachers of English typically help student writers emend their essays for precision and grace.

I first learned this word in a summer graduate course taught by a kindly professor (with tweed coat, pipe, and stained, crooked teeth) whose name I, unfortunately, have forgotten. One day, after class, he took me aside in the hallway, and said in a voice softened with halting, gentle concern, "Ahem, John.
About your work. This, ah, paper needs . . . emendations. What we have here, coming from you, given your past work, will, ah, not do!"

There were too many technical blunders and syntactical infelicities in the hastily written paper to satisfy his standards. That embarrassment promptly seared the word
emendation hard to the hide of my memory.


Emend comes from the Latin verb emendare (to free from fault). But so does the the more general verb, amend. [As you will see, emend and amend are not interchangeable words.--B'N'J'N]

AMEND V. EMEND (Source: John L. Dusseau):
[Amend means to] "alter, modify, correct.
"patiently adjust, amend and heal" (Hardy).
Amendment: The act of amending or improving, but specifically, alteration in or addition to a legislative act or resolution.
"Let us hastily amend the amendment."
Amends: Reparations or compensation for loss or damage.
"And doth not a meeting like this make amends,/For all the long years I've been wand'ring away?" (Thomas Moore).
Emend: Although the word was once simply an alternative spelling to amend, it has come to mean specifically to edit a manuscript by correcting its flaws and errors, and emendation is the act of manuscript editing. "God save me from busybody emendations" (30).
--Bugaboos, Chimeras & Achilles' Heels. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, 1993.



Emend edits and proofreads documents at the sentence level, with a blue pencil, paying attention to spelling, punctuation, diction, syntax, arrangement, and style. The results are called emendations.
Amend works at a larger scale of magnitude, altering substantive issues related to legislative acts or resolutions. The results are called amendments.



  1. Oh, thanks for this word, "emend". It appears that the needed new information from our Washington Office for the prospectus I'm drafting should be in soon. Now I know this lengthy document will be undergoing hopefully the final process of emendation!

  2. Can use use the words, amend and emend interchangeably?

  3. Dear A,
    The words differ. Amend means to change something "large" for the better; to improve, as in "amended the earlier proposal to make it more comprehensive." You end up with substantive changes called "amendments," as in Amendments to the Constitution.
    Emend means to "blue-pencil," to edit text--i.e., to remove ambiguities or misstatements, to proofread for technical errors. You end up with "emendations" ("revisions," "corrections") of the text.