Enable vs. Allow

To allow means to permit or give permission.
“My friend Janie’s mom allows her to stay out past 10:00 p.m.”

Another meaning for the verb “to allow” is to allocate a certain amount.
Leaving a half inch of air space in the drum allows for expansion of the liquid on hot days.

To enable means to provide the means or power, or to make something possible or easy.
The new WhizBang feature of the software enables users to cut simulation time in half.

Here’s a Bad Example:
Quantitative evaluation allows operators to produce their assets at maximum rates.

In this case, the operators are not being given permission or being allocated a certain amount; instead, they are given the means to produce to the max, therefore the word “allows” should be “enables.”

Here’s a good way to remember the difference between “allow” and “enable”:
People allow things; things enable people.


3 Responses to “Enable vs. Allow”

  1. John Says:

    I was wondering if you could help with a complex question about Word 2010.

    I’m writing a long article, and frequently use skits. When adding a skit I use insert paragraph spaces from the normal text, like this:

    Joe: Hello Jane, how are you?
    Jane: Not bad Joe, and you?

    Then I return to the normal text, as I have here. So there are two spaces between the normal text and the skits, at both the top and bottom. The problem comes when I come to a new page, because if the end of the page arrives after only one space down from the skit, then the new page has a gap of one space at the top of the page. This would not be a problem if the article only had a few pages, but some of mine are the size of novels. So if there was some kind of ‘windows and orphans’ function, that would automatically put the new page line at the top of the page, even though I had two spaces, that would be great.

    Without a function like that, I will have to manually go through the whole article at the end, but since artwork will also be added later by the publisher, those manual edits may all shift, putting text too close to skits, and so on.

    Thanks for any advice,


    • petrocomputing Says:

      Dear John:
      Thanks for your query to my Oil Patch Writing blog.
      Two ideas come to mind.

      1) Macros can help you automate the “fix the extra space at the top of the new page” process and get it done faster in long documents, but the problem of later edits messing up the page breaks and spaces remains. You can record a macro and just keep hitting that shortcut key until you get to the end of the document. Search the Word Help feature for Macros for instructions on how to do this.

      2) You can use “Keep Lines Together” and “Keep with Next” at the end of each skit to glue together and move the last couple of lines (not one line, as that would be a Widow) plus two line spaces to the next page. This way you’ll have text and not a space at the very top of the page, but you’ll have extra spaces at the bottom of the previous page that will automatically go away if stuff is added or subtracted and the page breaks at a different location. That’s what I would do.

      Hope this helps.
      – Jeanne Perdue
      Oil Patch Writing blogger

  2. Rev Says:

    This site contains some useful tips and recommendations, but in this case, it is just plain wrong – see Merriam Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, for example:


    a : to make it possible for someone or something to have or do something

    Her experience allows her to handle difficult situations easily. [=she can handle difficult situations easily because of her experience]
    Her schedule doesn’t allow her any time to run errands.
    The system allows you to transfer data easily from one computer to another.

    b : to make it possible for something to happen

    Occasional gaps allow passage through the mountains.
    a password that allows access to the system
    The system allows the easy transfer of data from one computer to another. = The system allows data to be transferred easily from one computer to another.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: