The A to Z of Correct English
Abandon :abandoned, abandoning, abandonment (Forsake, leave behind):(not -bb-)
Abattoir :(not -bb-) (A building where animals are butchered)
Abbreviate :abbreviated, abbreviating, abbreviation (not -b-)
(Reduce in scope while retaining essential elements, Shorten)
abridgement/ abridgment :Both spellings are correct. Use either but be consistent within one piece of writing.
(A shortened version of a written work)
abscess :(not absess or abcess) (Symptom consisting of a localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue)
absence :absent (not absc-) (Failure to be present)
absolute :absolutely (not absoloute, absoloutely) (Perfect or complete or pure)
absorb :absorption. Notice how b changes to p here.
accept or except? : We ACCEPT your apology. (Consider or hold as true)
Everybody was there EXCEPT Stephen. (Prevent from being included or considered)
Accessory or accessory?:
use ACCESSARY to refer to someone associated with a crime and ACCESSORY to refer to something that is added (a fashion accessory or car accessories)
accessible :(not -able) (Easily obtained)
accidentally :The adverb is formed by adding -ly to accidental. (not accidently) (Without advance planning)
accommodation : is frequently seen misspelt on painted signs. (not accomodation or accommadation)
(Living quarters provided for public convenience)
accumulate ( not –mm-) (Collect or gather)
achieve : achieved, achieving, achievement (not -ei-) (To gain with effort)
acknowledgement/ acknowledgment :Both spellings are correct but be consistent within one piece of writing.
(A short note recognizing a source of information or of a quoted passage)
acquaint :acquainted (not aq-) (Having fair knowledge of)
acquaintance :(not -ence) (Personal knowledge or information about someone or something)
acquiesce :acquiesced, acquiescing (not aq-) (To agree or express agreement)
acquiescence :(not -ance) (Acceptance without protest)
acquire :acquired, acquiring, acquisition (not aq-) (Come into the possession of something concrete or abstract)
acreage :Note that there are three syllables here.(not acrage) (An area of ground used for some particular purpose)
across :(not accross) (To the opposite side)
adapter or adaptor? :Traditional usage would distinguish between these two words and reserve -er for the person (an adapter of novels, for instance) and -or for the piece of electrical equipment
addendum (singular) :addenda (plural) (Textual matter that is added onto a publication; usually at the end)
address :(not adr-)
adieu (singular) :adieus or adieux (plural) (A farewell remark)
adrenalin/adrenaline :Both spellings are correct. (A catecholamine secreted by the adrenal medulla in response to stress)
advantageous :advantage + ous. Keep the -e in this instance. (Giving an advantage)
adverse or averse? :These two words have different meanings. The ferries were cancelled owing to
ADVERSE weather conditions. (= unfavourable) She is not AVERSE to publicity.(= opposed)
advertisement :advertise + ment (A public promotion of some product or service)
advice or advise? :My ADVICE is to forget all about it. (noun = recommendation). What would you ADVISE me to do? (verb = recommend)
adviser or advisor? :Adviser is the traditionally correct British spelling. Advisor is more common in American English. (An expert who gives advice)
advisory :(not -ery) (An announcement that usually advises or warns the public of some threat)
aerial :Use the same spelling for the noun (a television AERIAL = An electrical device that sends or receives radio or television signals) and the adjective (an AERIAL photograph). (Existing or living or growing or operating in the air)
affect or effect? Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Heavy drinking will AFFECT your liver.(verb)
The EFFECT on her health was immediate. (noun) The new manager plans to EFFECT
sweeping changes. (verb = to bring about)
afraid :(not affraid) (Filled with fear or apprehension)
ageing or aging? :Both spellings are correct but many would prefer ageing as it keeps the identity of the base word (age) more easily recognised.
aggravate :Strictly speaking, aggravate means to make worse. His rudeness AGGRAVATED an already
explosive situation. It is, however, widely used in the sense of to irritate or to annoy.
aggressive :(not agr-) (Having or showing determination and energetic pursuit of your ends)
agree to/agree with :The choice of preposition alters the meaning of the verb:
I AGREED TO do what he advised.
I AGREED TO all the conditions.
I AGREED WITH all they said.
agreeable :(not agreable) (Conforming to your own liking or feelings or nature)
alga (singular) :algae (plural) (Primitive chlorophyll-containing mainly aquatic eukaryotic organisms lacking true stems and roots and leaves)
allege :(not -dge) (Report or maintain)
alley or ally? :An ALLEY is a little lane. alley (singular), alleys (plural) An ALLY is a friend. ally (singular), allies (plural)
all most or almost? :There is a difference in meaning. Use these exemplar sentences as a guide:
They were ALL (= everyone) MOST kind.
The child was ALMOST (=nearly) asleep.
allowed or aloud? :There is a difference in meaning. Use these exemplar sentences as a guide:
Are we ALLOWED (= permitted) to smoke in here?
I was just thinking ALOUD (= out loud).
all ready or already? :There is a difference in meaning. Use these exemplar sentences as a guide:
We are ALL (= everyone) READY.
It is ALL (= everything) READY.
She was ALREADY dead (= by then).
all right or alright? :Traditional usage would consider ALL RIGHT to be correct and ALRIGHT to be incorrect.
all so or also? :There is a difference in meaning. Use these exemplar sentences as a guide:
You are ALL (= everyone) SO kind.
You are ALSO (= in addition) generous.
all together or There is a difference in meaning. Use these exemplar sentences as a guide:
altogether? They were ALL (= everybody) huddled TOGETHER for warmth.
His situation is ALTOGETHER (= totally) different from yours.
allude or elude? :There is a difference in meaning. ALLUDE means to refer to indirectly.
ELUDE means to evade capture or recall.
allusion, delusion :There is a difference in meaning.
or illusion? An ALLUSION is an indirect reference. A DELUSION is a false belief (often associated with a mental disorder). An ILLUSION is a deceptive appearance.
all ways or always? :There is a difference in meaning.
These three routes are ALL (= each of them) WAYS into town.
She ALWAYS (= at all times) tells the truth.
a lot :Write as two words, not as one. Bear inmind that this construction is slang and not to be used in a formal context. (To a very great degree or extent)
altar or alter? :There is a difference in meaning.
The bride and groom stood solemnly before the ALTAR.
Do you wish to ALTER (= change) the arrangements?
alternate or We visit our grandparents on ALTERNATE Saturdays. (= every other Saturday)
alternative? I ALTERNATE between hope and despair. (= have each mood in turn)
An ALTERNATIVE plan would be to go by boat. (= another possibility)
The ALTERNATIVES are simple: work or go hungry. (= two choices)
Alzheimer’s disease :(not Alze-)
amateur :(not -mm-) (Someone who pursues a study or sport as a pastime)
amend or emend? :Both words mean ‘to make changes in order to improve’. Use AMEND or EMEND when referring to the correction of written or printed text. Use AMEND in a wider context such as AMENDING the law or AMENDING behaviour.
among :(not amoung) (In the middle of)
among/amongst :Either form can be used.
among or between? :Use BETWEEN when something is shared by two people. Use AMONG when it is shared by three or more. Share the sweets BETWEEN the two of you.
Share the sweets AMONG yourselves. However, BETWEEN is used with numbers larger than two when it means an exact geographical location or when it refers to relationships.
Sardinia lies BETWEEN
Spain, Algeria, Corsica and . Italy
It will take a long time before the rift BETWEEN the five main parties heals.
amoral or immoral? :There is a difference in meaning.
AMORAL means not being governed by moral laws, acting outside them. (note -m-)
IMMORAL means breaking the moral laws. (note -mm-)
amount :(not ammount) (A quantity of money)
amount or number? :AMOUNT is used with non-count nouns: a small AMOUNT of sugar; a surprising AMOUNT of gossip. NUMBER is used with plural nouns: a NUMBER of mistakes; a NUMBER of reasons.
analyse :(not -ize as in American English) (Break down into components or essential features)
analysis (singular) analyses (plural)
annex or annexe? :To ANNEX is to take possession of a country or part of a country. An ANNEX is another word for an appendix in an official document. An ANNEXE is a building added to the main building.
announce :announced, announcing, announcer, announcement (not -n-) (Make known)
annoy :annoyed, annoying, annoyance (not anoy or annoied) (disturb)
annul :annulled, annulling, annulment (Declare invalid, Cancel officially)
anoint :(not -nn-) (Choose by or as if by divine intervention)
ante-/anti- :ANTE- means before. antenatal = before birth ANTI- means against. antifreeze = against freezing. antecedent This means earlier in time or an ancestor. (not anti-)
antediluvian :This means very old-fashioned and primitive, literally ‘before the flood of Noah’. (not anti-)
antenna :This word has two plurals, each used in a different sense:
:Use ANTENNAE to refer to insects. Use ANTENNAS to refer to television aerials.
anticlimax :(not ante-) (A disappointing decline after a previous rise)
antirrhinum :(not -rh-)
(A genus of herbs of the family Scrophulariaceae with brightly coloured irregular flowers)
antisocial :(not ante-) (Shunning contact with others)
anxiety :(not angs-)
anxious :(not angs-) (Eagerly desirous)
apologise/apologize :Both spellings are correct. (not -pp) apology, apologies (plural)
appal :appalled, appalling (not -aul-) (Strike with disgust or revulsion)
appearance :(not -ence) (Outward or visible aspect of a person or thing)
appendix :This word has two plurals, each used in a different sense.
Use APPENDIXES in an anatomical sense.
Use APPENDICES when referring to supplementary sections in books or formal documents.
appreciate :There are three distinct meanings of this word.
I APPRECIATE your kindness (= recognise gratefully).
I APPRECIATE that you have had a difficult time lately (= understand).
My cottage HAS APPRECIATED in value already (= increased).
approach :approached, approaching (not apr-) (Move towards)
aquarium (singular) :aquaria or aquariums (plural) (A tank or pool or bowl filled with water for keeping live fish and underwater animals)
arbiter or arbitrator? :An ARBITER is a judge or someone with decisive influence (an arbiter of fashion).
In addition, an ARBITER may intervene to settle a dispute (-er).
An ARBITRATOR is someone who is officially appointed to judge the rights and wrongs of a dispute (-or).
arbitrator or mediator? :An ARBITRATOR reaches a judgement but is not necessarily obeyed.
A MEDIATOR attempts to bring two opposing sides together and to settle a dispute.
archipelago :There are two interchangeable plural forms: archipelagoes, archipelagos.
(A group of many islands in a large body of water)
Arctic : (not artic, although frequently mispronounced as such) (The regions to the north of the
centred on the North Pole)
argument :(not arguement) (A fact or assertion offered as evidence that something is true)
arrange :arranged, arranging, arrangement (not -r-) (Put into a proper or systematic order)
article :(not -cal) (Nonfictional prose forming an independent part of a publication)
artist or artiste? :Traditionally, an ARTIST is skilled in one or more of the fine arts (painting, for example, or sculpture). Traditionally, the term ARTISTE is reserved for a performer or entertainer (a
music-hall ARTISTE). However, ARTIST is now being used to cover both meanings in the sense of ‘skilled practitioner’, and ARTISTE is becoming redundant.
as or like? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: You look AS if you have seen a ghost.
You look AS though you have seen a ghost.
AS I expected, he’s missed the train. You look LIKE your mother.
Asphalt :(not ashphalt, as it is frequently mispronounced) (~tar)
aspirin :(not asprin, as it is frequently mispronounced) (The acetylated derivative of salicylic acid; used as an analgesic anti-inflammatory drug)
assassin :(not assasin or asassin) (A murderer (especially one who kills a prominent political figure) who kills by a surprise attack and often is hired to do the deed)
assume or presume? :To ASSUME something to be the case is to take it for granted without any proof.
To PRESUME something to be the case is to base it on the evidence available.
assurance or insurance?
; ASSURANCE is the technical term given for insurance against a certainty (e.g.death) here payment is guaranteed. INSURANCE is the technical term given for insurance against a risk (such as fire, burglary, illness) where payment is madeonly if the risk materialises.
asthma :(not asma or assma)
astrology :ASTROLOGY is the study of the influence of the stars and planets on human life and fortune.
or astronomy? :ASTRONOMY is the scientific study of the stars and planets.
athlete :(not athelete)
athletics :(not atheletics)
attach :attached, attaching, attachment (not -tch)
audible :(not -able)
audience :(not -ance)
aural or oral? :AURAL refers to the ears and hearing. ORAL refers to the mouth and speaking.
authoritative :(not authorative) (Having authority or ascendancy or influence)
autobiography or biography?
:An AUTOBIOGRAPHY is an account of his or her life by the author. A BIOGRAPHY is an account of a life written by someone else.
automaton (singular) :automata, automatons (plural) (A mechanism that can move automatically)
avenge or revenge? :The words are very close in meaning but AVENGE is often used in the sense of just retribution, punishing a wrong done to another. Hamlet felt bound to AVENGE his father’s death.
REVENGE is often used in the sense of ‘getting one’s own back’ for a petty offence.
awkward :Notice -wkw-. The spelling itself looks awkward! (Causing inconvenience)
axis (singular) :axes (plural)
babyhood :(not -i-) This word is an exception to the -y rule (The early stage of growth or development)
bachelor :(not -tch-) (A man who has never been married)
bacillus (singular) :bacilli (plural) (Aerobic rod-shaped spore-producing bacterium; often occurring in chainlike formations; found primarily in soil)
bacterium (singular) :bacteria (plural)
banister/bannister :banisters, bannisters (plural) (A railing at the side of a staircase or balcony to prevent people from falling)
bargain :(not -ian) (An agreement between parties (usually arrived at after discussion) fixing obligations of each)
basically :basic + ally (not basicly) (In essence; at bottom or by one's (or its) very nature)
bath or bathe? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: I have a
BATH every morning (= I have a wash in
the bath).I the baby every day (= wash in a bath). I have had a new BATH fitted. BATH
We BATHE every day (= swim). BATHE the wound with disinfectant (= cleanse). We have a BATHE whenever we can (= a swim).
beach or beech? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Budleigh Salterton has a stony BEACH.
BEECH trees shed their leaves in autumn.
before :(not befor) (Earlier in time; previously)
beginner :(not -n-) (Someone new to a field or activity)
beige :(not -ie-) (Of a light greyish-brown colour)
belief :(not -ei) (Any cognitive content held as true)
believe :believed, believing, believer (Accept as true; take to be true)
benefit :benefited, benefiting. It is a common mistake to use -tt-. (Financial assistance in time of need)
berth or birth? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: We have a spare BERTH on our boat. We are proud to announce the BIRTH of a daughter.
beside or besides? :Use BESIDE in the sense of next to, by the side of: Your glasses are BESIDE your bed. May I sit BESIDE you? Use BESIDES in the sense of also, as well as: BESIDES, I can’t afford it.
BESIDES being very clever, Ann also works hard.
bi- :This prefix means ‘two’. Hence bicycle, bifocals, bigamy, and so on. Note, however, that some words beginning with ‘bi’ can be ambiguous.See BIMONTHLY and BIWEEKLY. BIANNUAL OR BIENNIAL
biannual or biennial? :BIANNUAL means twice a year (not -n-). BIENNIAL means every two years (a biennial festival) or lasting for two years (horticultural, etc). (not -ual)
bicycle :bi + cycle (not bycycle or bycicle)
bidding or biding? :bid + ing = bidding. The BIDDING at the auction was fast andfurious. BIDDING farewell, the knight canteredaway.
bide + ing = biding. Her critics were just BIDING their time.
bimonthly :Avoid using BIMONTHLY as it has two conflicting meanings. It can mean both every two months and also twice a month. (Compare BIWEEKLY.)
binoculars ;(not -nn-)
biscuit :(not -iu-)
bivouac :bivouacked, bivouacking (Temporary living quarters specially built by the army for soldiers)
bizarre :(not -zz-) (Conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual)
blond or blonde? :BLOND is used to describe men’s hair. BLOND is used to describe women’s hair.
A BLONDE is a woman.
board or bored? :A BOARD is a piece of wood, also a committee or similar group of people.To BOARD means to get on (train, etc.)and also to pay for living in someone’s house and having food provided.
BORED means uninterested.
boarder or border? :A BOARDER is a person who pays to live in someone’s house.
A BORDER is the edge or boundary of something.
boisterous :(not boistrous, although often mispronounced as two syllables) (Noisy and lacking in restraint or discipline)
boney/bony :Both spellings are correct, although the second spelling is more commonly used.
bored by, bored with : (not bored of)
born or borne? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Dickens was BORN in Portsmouth.She has BORNE five children.
He has BORNE a heavy burden of guilt all his life.
borrow or lend? :May I BORROW your pen? (= use yourpen temporarily)
Please LEND me your pen. (= pass it to me and allow me to use it)
both . . . and :Take care with the positioning of each half of this paired construction. Each must introduce grammatically similar things:
He is BOTH clever AND hardworking. (not: He both is clever and hardworking!)
He BOTH paints AND sculpts. He bought BOTH the gardening tools AND the DIY kit.
Notice, however, the ambiguity in the last example. It could mean that there were just two gardening tools and he bought both of them. In the case of possible confusion, always replace:
He bought the gardening tools and also the DIY kit. He bought the two gardening tools and also the DIY kit. He bought both of the gardening tools and also the DIY kit.
bought or brought? :BOUGHT is the past tense of to buy.She BOUGHT eggs, bacon and bread. BROUGHT is the past tense of to bring. They BROUGHT their books home.
bouncy :(not -ey) (Elastic; rebounds readily)
breath or breathe? :BREATH is the noun, and rhymes with ‘death’. He called for help with his dying BREATH.
BREATHE is the verb and rhymes with ‘seethe’. BREATHE deeply and fill those lungs!
brief, briefly :(not -ei-) (Of short duration or distance)
broach or brooch? :You BROACH a difficult topic or BROACH a bottle. (Bring up a topic for discussion)
You wear a BROOCH. (A decorative pin worn by women)
broccoli :(not brocolli) (Branched green undeveloped flower heads)
broken :(not brocken)
building :(not -iu-)
bureau :bureaux, bureaus (plural) (An administrative unit of government) Both forms are correct.
Bureaucracy :(not -sy) (Nonelective government officials)
Burglar ;(not burgular, as often mispronounced) (A thief who enters a building with intent to steal)
buy/by :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: I need to BUY some new jeans. The book is BY Charlotte Bronte. Wait BY the gate. The children rushed BY.
cactus (singular) :cactuses or cacti (plural)
caffeine :(not -ie-) (A bitter alkaloid found in coffee and tea that is responsible for their stimulating effects)
calculator :(not -er)
calf (singular) :calves (plural) (Young of domestic cattle)
callous or callus? :CALLOUS means cruel, insensitive, not caring about how others feel. CALLUS means a hard patch of skin or tissue. Interestingly, skin may be CALLOUSED (made hard) or CALLUSED (having calluses).
can or may? :Strictly speaking, CAN means ‘being able’ and MAY means ‘having permission’. It is best to preserve this distinction in formal contexts. However, informally, CAN is used to cover both meanings: You CAN go now (= are permitted).
caning or canning? :cane + ing = caning CANING is now banned in all schools. Can + ing = canning
The CANNING factory is closing down.
canister :(not -nn-) (Metal container for storing dry foods such as tea or flour)
cannon or canon? :A CANON is a cleric. A CANNON is a large gun.
cannot or can not? :Both forms are acceptable but the second is rarely seen.
canoe :canoed, canoeing, canoeist (Travel by canoe, Small and light boat)
canvas or canvass? :CANVAS is a rough cloth. To CANVASS is to ask for votes.
capital punishment or corporal punishment? :CAPITAL PUNISHMENT = death,
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT = beating
cappuccino :(not -p-) (an Italian coffee drink prepared with espresso, hot milk, and steamed-milk foam.)
capsize :This is the only verb in the English language of more than one syllable that must end in -ize. (Overturn accidentally)
captain :(not -ian)
career :(not -rr-)
cargo (singular) :cargoes (plural)
Caribbean :(not -rr-, not -b-)
carrying :carry + ing (Move while supporting, either in a vehicle or in one's hands or on one's body)
cast or caste? :Use CAST for a group of actors in a play and for a plaster CAST and a CAST in an eye.
Use CASTE when referring to a social group in Hindu society.
caster or castor? :Both caster sugar and castor sugar are correct.
Both sugar caster and sugar castor are correct. Both casters and castors can be used when
referring to the little wheels fixed to the legs of furniture.
But castor oil, not caster oil.
catarrh :(not -rh) (Inflammation of the nose and throat with increased production of mucus)
catastrophe :(not -y) (An event resulting in great loss and misfortune)
categorical :categorically (not cata-) (Relating to or included in a category or categories)
category (singular) categories (plural) (not cata-)
cauliflower :(not -flour) (A plant having a large edible head of crowded white flower buds)
ceiling :(not -ie-) (The overhead upper surface of a covered space)
Cellophane :(not Sello-) (A transparent paperlike product that is impervious to moisture and used to wrap candy or cigarettes etc.)
censer, censor, or censure? :A CENSER is a container in which incense is burnt during a religious ceremony A CENSOR is a person who examines plays, books, films, etc. before deciding if they are suitable for public performance or publication. To CENSOR is to do the work of a CENSOR. CENSURE is official and formal disapproval or condemnation of an action. To CENSURE is to express this condemnation in a formal written or spoken statement.
centenarian or centurion? :A CENTENARIAN is someone who is at least 100 years old. A CENTURION is the commander of a company of 100 men in the ancient Roman army.
century (singular) :centuries (plural) (not centua-)
cereal or serial? :CEREAL is food processed from grain. A SERIAL is a book or radio or television performance delivered in instalments.
ceremonial or ceremonious? :Both adjectives come from the noun CEREMONY. CEREMONIAL describes the ritual used for a formal religious or public event (a CEREMONIAL occasion). CEREMONIOUS describes the type of person who likes to behave over-formally on social occasions. It is not altogether complimentary (a CEREMONIOUS wave of the hand).
ceremony (singular) :ceremonies (plural)
certain or curtain :CERTAIN means sure. Are you CERTAIN that he apologised? CURTAINS are window drapes. Do draw the CURTAINS. Note that the c sounds like s in certain and like k in curtain.
changeable :(not -gable)
chaos :chaotic (A state of extreme confusion and disorder)
character :(not charachter) (An imaginary person represented in a work of fiction)
check or cheque? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Always CHECK your work. May I pay by CHEQUE? (not ‘check’ as in the
cherub (singular) :This word has two plurals. Cherubim is reserved exclusively for the angels often portrayed as little children with wings. Cherubs can be used either for angels or for enchanting small children.
chestnut :(not chesnut, as it is often mispronounced) ((of hair or feathers) of a golden brown to reddish brown colour)
chief (singular) :chiefs (plural) (A person who is in charge)
childish or childlike? :The teenager was rebuked by the magistrate for his CHILDISH behaviour. (i.e. which he should have outgrown) The grandfather has retained his sense of CHILDLIKE wonder at the beauty of the natural world. (i.e. marvellously direct,innocent and enthusiastic)
chimney (singular) :chimneys (plural)
chocolate :(not choclat although often mispronounced as such)
choice :(not -se)
choir :(not -io-) (A family of similar musical instrument playing together)
choose :I CHOOSE my words carefully.
I am CHOOSING my words carefully.
I CHOSE my words carefully yesterday.
I have CHOSEN them carefully.
chord or cord? :CHORD is used in a mathematical or musical context.
CORD refers to string and is generally used when referring to anatomical parts like the umbilical cord, spinal cord and vocal cords.
Christianity :(not Cr-)
Christmas : (not Cristmas or Chrismas)
chronic :(not cr-) This word is often misused. It doesn’t mean terrible or serious. It means longlasting,
persistent, when applied to an illness.
chrysanthemum :(not cry-)
cigarette :(not -rr)
cite, sight or site? ; To CITE means to refer to. SIGHT is vision or something seen. A SITE is land, usually set aside for a particular purpose.
clothes or cloths? :CLOTHES are garments. CLOTHS are dusters or scraps of material.
coarse or course? :COARSE means vulgar, rough: COARSE language, COARSE cloth. COURSE means Certainly: OF COURSE. COURSE also means a series of lectures, a direction, a sports area, and part of a meal: an advanced COURSE, to change COURSE, a golf COURSE, the main COURSE .
codeine :(not -ie-) (Derivative of opium)
colander :(not -ar) (Bowl-shaped strainer; used to wash or drain foods)
collaborate :collaborated, collaborating (Work together on a common enterprise of project)
collaborator :collaboration (An associate in an activity or endeavour or sphere of common interest)
collapse : collapsed, collapsing (Break down, literally or metaphorically), collapsible (not -able)
colleagues :( An associate that one works with)
colloquial :( Characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation)
colonel or kernel? :A COLONEL is a senior officer. A KERNEL is the inner part of a nut.
colossal :(not -ll-) (So great in size or force or extent as to elicit awe)
colour :(not color, as in American English), colourful
coming :come + ing = coming (not comming)
commemorate :(not -m-) (Mark by some ceremony or observation)
commission :(not -m-) (A special group delegated to consider some matter)
commit :committed, committing, (Perform an act), commitment
comparative :comparatively (not compari-) (Relating to or based on or involving comparison)
competition :competitive, competitively.
complement or compliment? :COMPLEMENT = that which completes
Half the ship’s COMPLEMENT were recruited in
To COMPLEMENT = to go well with something
Her outfit was COMPLEMENTED by well chosen accessories.
COMPLIMENT = praise, flattering remarks
To COMPLIMENT = to praise.
complementary or complimentary? : Use COMPLEMENTARY in the sense of completing a whole:
COMPLEMENTARY medicine.,COMPLEMENTARY jobs
Use COMPLIMENTARY in two senses: (a) flattering (b) free of charge
COMPLIMENTARY remarks, COMPLIMENTARY tickets
completely :complete + ly (not completly, completely or compleatly)
complex or complicated? :Both words mean ‘made up of many different intricate and confusing aspects’.
However, use COMPLEX when you mean ‘intricate’, and COMPLICATED when you
mean ‘difficult to understand’.
compose/comprise The report IS COMPOSED OF ten sections. (= is made up of)
The report COMPRISES ten sections. (= contains)
Never use the construction ‘is comprised of’. It is always incorrect grammatically.
comprise :(not -ize) (Include or contain; have as a component)
compromise :(not -ize) (Settle by concession)
computer :(not -or)
concede (Admit (to a wrongdoing))
conceive :conceived, conceiving, conceivable (Have the idea for)
concise :(Expressing much in few words)
confer :conferred, conferring, conference (Have a conference in order to talk something over)
confidant, confidante or confident? :A CONFIDANT (male or female) or a CONFIDANTE (female only) is someone
to whom one tells one’s secrets ‘in confidence’. CONFIDENT means assured.
connection or connexion? :Both spellings are correct, but the first one is more commonly used.
connoisseur :Used for both men and women. (An expert able to appreciate a field; especially in the fine arts)
conscientious : (Characterized by extreme care and great effort)
consist in or consist of? : For Belloc, happiness CONSISTED IN ‘laughter and the love of friends’. (consist in = have as its essence) Lunch CONSISTED OF bread, cheese and fruit.
consistent :(not -ant) (The same throughout in structure or composition)
contagious or infectious? :Both refer to diseases passed to others. Strictly speaking, CONTAGIOUS means
passed by bodily contact, and INFECTIOUS means passed by means of air or water.
Used figuratively, the terms are interchangeable: INFECTIOUS laughter, NTAGIOUS enthusiasm.
contemporary :(not contempory, as often mispronounced)
Nowadays, this word is used in two senses:
(a) happening or living at the same time (in the past) (b) modern, current
Be aware of possible ambiguity if both these meanings are possible in a given context:
Hamlet is being performed in contemporary dress (sixteenth-century or modern?).
contemptible or contemptuous :A person or an action worthy of contempt is CONTEMPTIBLE.
A person who shows contempt is CONTEMPTUOUS.
continual :continually (Occurring without interruption; chiefly restricted to what recurs regularly or frequently in a prolonged and closely spaced series)
continual or continuous? :CONTINUAL means frequently repeated, occurring with short breaks only.
CONTINUOUS means uninterrupted.
controller :(not -or)
convenience :(not -ance)
convenient :conveniently (not convien-)
correspond :(not -r-) (Be compatible, similar or consistent; coincide in their characteristics)
correspondence :(not -ance) (Communication by the exchange of letters)
correspondent or co-respondent? :A CORRESPONDENT is someone who writes letters. A CO-RESPONDENT is cited in divorce proceedings.
could of :This is incorrect and arises from an attempt to write down what is heard. Write ‘could’ve’ in informal contexts and ‘could have’ in formal ones. I COULD HAVE given you a lift. I COULD’VE given you a lift. Beware also: should of/would of/must of/
might of. All are incorrect forms.
council or counsel? :A COUNCIL is a board of elected representatives. COUNSEL is advice, also the term used for a barrister representing a client in court.
councillor or counsellor? :A COUNCILLOR is an elected representative. A COUNSELLOR is one who gives
professional guidance, such as a study COUNSELLOR, a marriage COUNSELLOR, a debt COUNSELLOR.
counterfeit :( Not genuine; imitating something superior)
courageous : (not -gous)
courteous :courteously, courtesy (Exhibiting courtesy and politeness)
credible or credulous? :If something is CREDIBLE, it is believable. If someone is CREDULOUS, they are
gullible (i.e. too easily taken in).
crisis (singular) :crises (plural)
criterion (singular) :criteria (plural)
criticise/criticize :Both spellings are correct.
criticism :This word is frequently misspelt. Remember critic + ism. (Disapproval expressed by pointing out faults or shortcomings)
cupboard :(not cub-)
curb or kerb :To CURB one’s temper means to control or restrain it. A CURB is a restraint (e.g. a curb bit for a horse). A KERB is the edging of a pavement.
Curious :( eagerly interested in learning more)
curiosity :(not -ious-)
curly :(not -ey) ((of hair) having curls or waves)
currant or current? :A CURRANT is a small dried grape used in cooking. A CURRENT is a steady flow of water, air or electricity. CURRENT can also mean happening at the present time (as in CURRENT affairs, CURRENT practice).
curriculum (singular) :curriculums/curricula (plural)
curriculum vitae :(abbreviation: CV) (A summary of your academic and work history)
daily :(not dayly) This is an exception to the -y rule.
dairy or diary? :We buy our cream at a local DAIRY. Kate writes in her DIARY every day.
data (plural) :datum (singular) Strictly speaking, DATA should be used with a plural verb:
The DATA have been collected by research students. You will, however, increasingly see DATA used with a singular verb and this use has now become acceptable. The DATA has been collected by research students.
deceased or diseased? :DECEASED means dead. DISEASED means affected by illness or infection.
deceit :(not -ie) (The quality of being fraudulent)
deceive :(Be false to; be dishonest with)
decent or descent? :DECENT means fair, upright, reasonable. DESCENT means act of coming down, ancestry.
decide :decided, deciding (not decied-)
de´colletage :(not de-) (A low-cut neckline on a woman's dress)
decrepit :(not -id) (Worn and broken down by hard use)
defective or deficient? :DEFECTIVE means not working properly (a DEFECTIVE machine). DEFICIENT means
lacking something vital (a diet DEFICIENT in vitamin C).
definite :(not -ff-, not -ate) (Precise; explicit and clearly defined) definitely
denouement/ de´nouement :Both spellings are correct. (The outcome of a complex sequence of events)
dependant or dependent? :The adjective (meaning reliant) is always -ent. She is a widow with five DEPENDENT
children. I am absolutely DEPENDENT on a pension. The noun (meaning someone who is
dependent) has traditionally been spelt -ant.
describe :(not dis-) (Give a description of)
description :(not -scrib-) (A statement that represents something in words)
desert or dessert? :A DESERT is sandy. A DESSERT is a pudding.
desiccated :(not dess-) (Thoroughly dried out)
desirable :(not desireable) (Worth having or seeking or achieving)
desperate : (not desparate) The word is derived from spes (Latin word for hope). This may help you to
remember the e in the middle syllable. (Arising from or marked by despair or loss of hope)
destroy :destroyed, destroying (not dis-)
detached :(not detatched)
deter : deterred, deterring (Try to prevent; show opposition to)
deteriorate :(not deteriate, as it is often mispronounced) (Become worse or disintegrate)
deterrent :(not -ant) (Something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress)
develop :developed, developing (not -pp-) (Make something new, such as a product or a mental or artistic creation)
development :(not developement)
device/devise :DEVICE is the noun. A padlock is an intriguing DEVICE. DEVISE is the verb. Try to DEVISE a simple burglar alarm.
diagnosis (singular) :diagnoses (plural)
diagnosis or prognosis? :DIAGNOSIS is the identification of an illness or a difficulty. PROGNOSIS is the forecast of its likely development and effects.
diary (singular) :diaries (plural)
dictionary (singular) :dictionaries (plural) (not -nn-)
didn’t :(not did’nt)
diesel :(not deisel)
dietician/dietitian :Both spellings are correct.
difference :(not -ance)
different :(not -ant)
different from/to/than ;‘Different from’ and ‘different to’ are now both considered acceptable forms. My tastes are DIFFERENT FROM yours. My tastes are DIFFERENT TO yours. Conservative users would, however, much prefer the preposition ‘from’ and this is widely used in formal contexts. ‘Different than’ is acceptable in American English but is not yet fully acceptable in British English.
difficult :(not differcult, not difficalt)
dilapidated :(not delapidated) (Bring into a condition of decay or partial ruin by neglect or misuse)
dilemma :This word is often used loosely to mean ‘a problem’. Strictly speaking it means a difficult choice between two possibilities.
dinghy or dingy? :A DINGHY is a boat (plural – dinghies). DINGY means dull and drab.
dingo (singular) :dingoes or dingos (plural) (Wolflike yellowish-brown wild dog of
dining or dinning? :dine + ing = dining (as in dining room) din + ing = dinning (noise dinning in ears)
diphtheria :(not diptheria as it is often mispronounced) (Acute contagious infection caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae; marked by the formation of a false membrane in the throat and other air passages causing difficulty in breathing)
diphthong :(not dipthong as it is often mispronounced)
disagreeable :dis + agree + able
disappear :dis + appear
disappearance :(not -ence)
disappoint :dis + appoint
disapprove :dis + approve
disassociate or dissociate? ;Both are correct, but the second is more widely used and approved.
disastrous :(not disasterous, as it is often mispronounced)
disc or disk? :Use ‘disc’ except when referring to computer disks.
disciple :(not disiple) (Someone who believes and helps to spread the doctrine of another)
discipline :(A branch of knowledge)
discover or invent? :You DISCOVER something that has been there all the time unknown to you (e.g. a star).
You INVENT something if you create it for the first time (e.g. a time machine).
discreet or discrete? :You are DISCREET if you can keep secrets and behave diplomatically.
Subject areas are DISCRETE if they are quite separate and unrelated.
discrepancy (singular) :discrepancies (plural) (A difference between conflicting facts or claims or opinions)
discuss :discussed, discussing
disheveled : (In disarray; extremely disorderly)
disintegrate :(not disintergrate) (Break into parts or components or lose cohesion or unity)
disinterested or uninterested? :Careful users would wish to preserve a distinction in meaning between these two
words. Use the word DISINTERESTED to mean ‘impartial, unselfish, acting for the good of others and not for yourself’ .My motives are entirely DISINTERESTED; it is justice I am seeking. Use UNINTERESTED to mean ‘bored’. His teachers say he is reluctant to participate and is clearly UNINTERESTED in any activities the school has to offer. Originally, DISINTERESTED was used in this sense (= having no interest in, apathetic), and it is interesting that this meaning is being revived in popular speech. Avoid this use in formal contexts, however, for it is widely perceived as being incorrect.
displace or misplace? :To displace is to move someone or something from its usual place: A DISPLACED h a DISPLACED person. To misplace something is to put it in the wrong place
(and possibly forget where it is): A MISPLACED apostrophe; MISPLACED kindness.
dissatisfied :(dis + satisfied)
divers or diverse :The first is rarely used nowadays except jokingly or in mistake for the second. DIVERS means ‘several’, ‘of varying types’: DIVERS reference books. DIVERSE means ‘very different’:
DIVERSE opinions, DIVERSE interests.
does or dose? :DOES he take sugar? He DOES. (pronounced ‘duz’).Take a DOSE of cough mixture every
doesn’t :(not does’nt)
domino (singular) :dominoes (plural) (A mask covering the upper part of the face but with holes for the eyes)
don’t :(not do’nt)
doubt :(not dout) The word is derived from the Latin word dubitare, to doubt. It may help you to
remember why the silent b is there.
Down’s Syndrome :(not Downe’s) (A congenital disorder caused by having an extra 21st chromosome; results in a flat face and short stature and mental retardation)
downstairs :(one word)
draft or draught? :A DRAFT is a first or subsequent attempt at a piece of written work before it is finished.
A DRAUGHT is a current of cool air in a room. One also refers to a DRAUGHT of ale, a game of DRAUGHTS and a boat having a shallow DRAUGHT.
drawers or draws? ;DRAWS is a verb. She DRAWS very well for a young child. DRAWERS is a noun. The DRAWERS of the sideboard are very stiff.
dreamed/dreamt :Both spellings are correct.
drier or dryer? :DRIER is generally used for the comparative form (DRIER = more dry).
DRYER is generally used for a drying machine (hair DRYER, clothes DRYER). However, both spellings are interchangeable.
drunkenness :drunken + ness
dual or duel? :DUAL means two (e.g. DUAL controls, DUAL carriageway). DUEL means fight or contest.
duchess :(not dutchess)
due to/owing to :Strictly speaking, ‘due to’ should refer to a noun: His absence was DUE TO sickness. (noun)
The delay was DUE TO leaves on the line. (noun) ‘Owing to’, strictly speaking, should refer
to a verb: The march was cancelled OWING TO the storm. (verb) OWING TO an earlier injury, he limped badly. (verb)
duly :(not duely) (At the proper time) This is an exception to the magic -e rule.
dwelled/dwelt :Both spellings are correct. (Think moodily or anxiously about something)
dyeing or dying? :DYEING comes from the verb to dye. She was DYEING all her vests green. DYING comes from the verb to die. She cursed him with her DYING breath.
earnest or Ernest? :EARNEST = serious and sincere , ERNEST = masculine first name
echo (singular) :echoes (plural)
economic or economical? :ECONOMIC = related to the economy of the country, or industry or business
ECONOMICAL = thrifty, avoiding extravagance.
ecstasy (singular) :ecstasies (plural) (A state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion) Ecstasy illegal drug
eczema : (Generic term for inflammatory conditions of the skin; particularly with vesiculation in the acute stages)
eerie or eyrie? :EERIE = strange, weird, disturbing, EYRIE = an eagle’s nest
effective, effectual, or efficient? :EFFECTIVE = able to produce a result, an EFFECTIVE cure, an EFFECTIVE speech
EFFECTUAL = likely to be completely successful: EFFECTUAL prayer,EFFECTUAL legislation
EFFICIENT = working well without wasting time, money or effort: an EFFICIENT secretary an EFFICIENT engine
eighth :(notice -hth) (Coming next after the seventh and just before the ninth in position)
either . . .or (i) Take care with singular and plural verbs. Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Either Jack or Tom was there. (singular verb to match Jack (singular) and Tom (singular)).Either Jack or his brothers were there. (plural verb to match ‘brothers’ (plural) which is closer to it than ‘Jack’ (singular) ). Either his brothers or Jack was there. (singular verb this time because ‘Jack’ (singular) is closer to the verb than ‘brothers’)
(ii) Be careful to place each part of the ‘either . . . or’ construction correctly. ‘I have decided either that I have to build an extension or I have to move.’ ‘I have decided that either I have to
build an extension or I have to move.’ In the example above, there are these two possibilities:
I have to build an extension. I have to move. ‘Either’ precedes the first one and ‘or’ precedes the second. The second one could be shortened: I have decided that either I have to build an extension or (I have to) move. ‘I have decided that either I have to build an extension or move.’
It is important that the two constructions following ‘either’ and ‘or’ should be parallel ones:
either meat or fish, either green or red ,either to love or to hate, either with malice or with kindness.
If the second construction is shortened to avoid repetition, this is fine. The missing words are obvious and can be supplied readily.
elf (singular) :elves (plural) ((folklore) fairies that are somewhat mischievous)
eligible or legible? :ELIGIBLE = suitably qualified, LEGIBLE = able to be read
eloquent :(Expressing yourself readily, clearly, effectively)
embargo (singular) :embargoes (plural) (A government order imposing a trade barrier)
embarrass :embarrassed, embarrassing (not -r-)
embarrassment (The shame you feel when your inadequacy or guilt is made public)
emergency (singular) :emergencies (plural) (A sudden unforeseen crisis (usually involving danger) that requires immediate action)
emigrant or immigrant? :An EMIGRANT leaves his or her country to live in another. An IMMIGRANT moves into a country to live permanently.
eminent or imminent? :EMINENT = famous, IMMINENT = about to happen
emphasise/emphasize :Both spellings are correct. (Give extra weight to (a communication))
encyclopaedia/ encyclopedia :Both spellings are correct.
enemy (singular) :enemies (plural)
enormity :This means a grave sin or a crime, or describes something that is a grave sin or a crime or a disaster on a huge scale. We gradually realised the full ENORMITY of the tragedy. It is often used in popular speech to mean ‘enormousness’, ‘hugeness’, ‘immensity’. This should be avoided in a formal context.
enquiry or inquiry? :Both spellings are correct and there is no difference in meaning.
enrol :enrolled, enrolling (British English – enrol; American English – enroll), enrolment (British English – enrolment; American English – enrollment) (Register formally as a participant or member)
ensure or insure? :to ENSURE = to make sure, to INSURE = to arrange for financial compensation in the case of loss, injury, damage or death
enthusiasm :(not -ou-), enthusiastic (A feeling of excitement)
envelop :enveloped, enveloping, envelopment (stress on second syllable)
envelope (singular) :envelopes (plural) (stress on third syllable)
environment :(not enviroment)
epigram or epitaph? :EPIGRAM = a short witty saying , EPITAPH = an inscription on a tombstone
equip :equipped, equipping, equipment
erratum (singular) :errata (plural) (A mistake in printed matter resulting from mechanical failures of some kind)
erring :err + ing (not -r-) (Capable of making an error)
erupt (not -rr-) (Start abruptly)
especially or specially? :The two words are very close in meaning and sometimes overlap. However, use these exemplar sentences as a guide to exclusive uses: I bought the car ESPECIALLY for you (=
for you alone). We are awaiting a SPECIALLY commissioned report (= for a special purpose).
estuary (singular) :estuaries (plural) (The wide part of a river where it nears the sea; fresh and salt water mix)
etc. :(not e.t.c. or ect.) (i) etc. is an abbreviation of the Latin et cetera which means ‘and other
things’. It is therefore incorrect to write ‘and etc.’.(ii) Avoid using ‘etc.’ in formal writing. Either list all the items indicated by the vague and lazy ‘etc.’, or introduce the given selection with a phrase like ‘including’, ‘such as’ or ‘for example’.
eventually :eventual + ly (not eventully) (After an unspecified period of time or an especially long delay)
exaggerate :(not exagerate) (To enlarge beyond bounds or the truth)
excellent :(not -ant)
exceptionable or exceptional? :EXCEPTIONABLE = open to objection, EXCEPTIONAL = unusual
excite :excited, exciting, excitement (Arouse or elicit a feeling)
exclaim :exclaimed, exclaiming (Utter aloud; often with surprise, horror, or joy)
exclamation :(not -claim-)
exercise :(not excercise)
exhausted :(not exausted) (Drained of energy or effectiveness; extremely tired; completely exhausted)
exhausting or exhaustive? :EXHAUSTING = tiring, EXHAUSTIVE = thorough, fully comprehensive
exhilarated :(not -er-) (Made joyful)
expedition :(not expidition) (A journey organized for a particular purpose) The second syllable is derived from the Latin word pes, pedis (foot, of the foot). This may help you to remember -ped-. The words pedal, pedestrian, pedometer all come from this same Latin root.
expendable :(not -ible) (Suitable to be expended)
experience :(not expierience, not -ance) The second syllable is derived from the Latin word per, meaning through. (Experience is what we gain from going ‘through’ something.)
explain :explained, explaining
explanation :(not -plain-)
explicit or implicit? :EXPLICIT = stated clearly and openly, IMPLICIT = implied but not actually stated
extraordinary :extra + ordinary
extravagance :(not -ence) (The quality of exceeding the appropriate limits of decorum or probability or truth)
extravagant :(not -ent) (Recklessly wasteful)
extremely :extreme + ly
exuberance :(not -ence) (Joyful enthusiasm)
exuberant :(not -ent) (Produced or growing in extreme abundance)
facetious :(All five vowels occur in this word once only and in alphabetical order.) (Cleverly amusing in tone)
facilities or faculties? :FACILITIES = amenities, FACULTIES = mental or physical aptitudes
factory (singular) :factories (plural)
Fahrenheit :(not -ie-)
faithfully :faithful + ly
familiar :(not fammiliar)
family (singular) :families (plural) (not -mm-)
farther or further? :Both words can be used to refer to physical distance although some writers prefer to keep ‘farther’ for this purpose. I can walk FARTHER than you. I can walk FURTHER than you.
FURTHER is used in a figurative sense: Nothing was FURTHER from my mind.
FURTHER is also used in certain expressions: FURTHER education , until FURTHER notice
fascinate :(not facinate) (Cause to be interested or curious)
favourite :(not -ate)
feasible :(not -able)
fewer or less? :FEWER is the comparative form of ‘few’. It is used with plural nouns: FEWER vegetables
FEWER responsibilities, FEWER children, LESS is the comparative form of ‘little’. It is used in the sense of ‘a small amount’ rather than ‘a fewer number of’: LESS enthusiasm, LESS sugar,
LESS petrol. LESS THAN is used with number alone, and expressions of time and distance:
LESS THAN a thousand, LESS THAN ten seconds, LESS THAN four miles
It is considered incorrect to use ‘less’ instead of ‘fewer’ although such confusion is frequent in popular speech. As a rule of thumb, remember: FEWER = not so many, LESS = not so much
fiance´ or fiance´e? :FIANCE´ = masculine, FIANCE´E = feminine Note the accent in both words.
fictional or fictitious? :FICTIONAL = invented for the purpose of fiction, related to fiction. FICTIONAL texts, FICTIONAL writing. FICTITIOUS = false, not true, a FICTITIOUS report, a FICTITIOUS name and address Either word can be used to describe a character in a work of fiction: a FICTIONAL or FICTITIOUS character.
fiery :(not firey)
flamingo (singular) :flamingoes or flamingos (plural) (Large pink to scarlet web-footed wading bird with down-bent bill; inhabits brackish lakes)
flammable or inflammable :Both words mean ‘easily bursting into flame’. People often think that inflammable is the negative form but the prefix ‘in’ here means ‘into’. The opposite of these two words is non-flammable or non-inflammable.
flexible :(not -able) (Capable of being changed)
flu or flue? :FLU = influenza (not ’flu although an abbreviation) FLUE = a pipe or duct for smoke and
fluorescent :(not flourescent)
focus :focused or focussed (both correct) focusing or focussing (both correct)
for- or fore-? :A useful rule of thumb is to remember the usual meaning of the prefixes: FOR- = not, or something negative (forbid, forfeit, forget, forsake), FORE- = before (foreboding, forecast, forefathers)
forbear or forebear? :FORBEAR (stress on second syllable) = restrain oneself, FORBEAR or FOREBEAR (stress on first syllable) = ancestor
forbid :forbad or forbade (both correct), forbidden, forbidding
forcible :(not -able) (Impelled by physical force especially against resistance)
forecast (not forcast) (Predict in advance)
forefend/forfend :Either spelling can be used. (Prevent the occurrence of; prevent from happening)
foregather/forgather :Either spelling can be used. (Collect in one place)
forego/forgo :Either spelling can be used. (Be earlier in time; go back further)
forest :(not forrest)
foreword or forward? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: The Poet Laureate had written a FOREWORD for the new anthology. I am looking FORWARD to the holiday. Will you please FORWARD this letter?
forfeit :(not -ie-, exception to the rule) (Something that is lost or surrendered as a penalty;)
formally or formerly? :FORMALLY = in a formal manner, FORMERLY = previously, at an earlier time
formula (singular) :There are two plurals. Use formulae in a scientific or mathematical context. Use formulas in all other cases.
forsake :(not fore-) (Leave someone who needs or counts on you; leave in the lurch)
fortunately :fortunate + ly (not -atly) (By good fortune)
forty :(not fourty)
frantic :( Excessively agitated; distraught with fear or other violent emotion) frantically frantic + ally (not franticly)
frequent :(not -ant) Use as an adjective (stress on first syllable): There were FREQUENT interruptions.
Use as a verb (stress on second syllable): They FREQUENT the most terrible pubs.
fresco (singular) :frescoes or frescos (plural) (A mural done with watercolours on wet plaster)
friend :(not -ei-)
frieze :(not -ei-) (A heavy woollen fabric with a long nap)
frighten :frightened, frightening (not frightend, frightning) (Cause fear in)
fungus (singular) :fungi or funguses (plural)
gaiety :gay + ety – an exception to the y rule (A gay feeling)
gaily gay + ly – an exception to the y rule (In a gay manner)
gallop :galloped, galloping (not -pp-)
ganglion (singular) :ganglia or ganglions (plural) (An encapsulated neural structure consisting of a collection of cell bodies or neurons)
gaol :An alternative spelling is ‘jail’.
garage (A repair shop where cars and trucks are serviced and repaired)
gateau (singular) :gateaus or gateaux (plural) (Any of various rich and elaborate cakes)
gauge :(not guage) (Determine the capacity, volume, or contents of by measurement and calculation)
genealogical :(not geneo-)
generosity :(not -ous-) (Acting generously)
generous : (Not petty in character and mind)
ghastly :(not gastly) (Shockingly repellent; inspiring horror)
gipsy/gypsy :Both spellings are correct. gipsies or gypsies (plural)
glamorous :(not -our-) (Having an air of allure, romance and excitement)
good will or goodwill? :Always write as one word when referring to the prestige and trading value of a business.
He bought the GOODWILL for five thousand pounds. Use either two words or one word when
referring to general feelings of kindness and support. As a gesture of GOOD WILL, she cancelled the fine.
gorgeous (not -gous) :( Dazzlingly beautiful)
gorilla or guerilla? :A GORILLA is an animal. A GUERILLA is a revolutionary fighter.
gossip :gossiped, gossiping (not -pp)
gourmand or gourmet? A GOURMAND is greedy and overindulges where fine food is concerned. A GOURMET is a connoisseur of fine food.
government :(not goverment as it is often mispronounced)
governor :(not -er)
gradual :gradually gradual + ly (not gradully) (Proceeding in small stages)
graffiti :This is increasingly used in a general sense (like the word ‘writing’) and its plural force is forgotten when it comes to matching it with a verb:There was GRAFFITI all over the wall.
A few conservative writers would like a plural verb (There were GRAFFITI all over the wall).
graffito (singular) :graffiti (plural)
grammar :(not -er)
gramophone :(not grama-)
grandad/granddad :Both spellings are correct. Grandchild, granddaughter, grandfather grandma, grandmother, grandparent ,grandson
grate or great? : Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: The fire was burning brightly in the GRATE.
GRATE the potato coarsely. Christopher Wren was a GREAT architect.
grateful :(not greatful) (Feeling or showing gratitude)
grief :(not -ei-) (Something that causes great unhappiness)
grievance :(not -ence)
grievous :(not -ious) (Causing fear or anxiety by threatening great harm)
grotto (singular) :grottoes or grottos (plural) (A small cave (usually with attractive features))
guttural :(not -er-) (Like the sounds of frogs and crows)
hadn’t :(not had’nt)
haemorrhage :(not -rh-) (The flow of blood from a ruptured blood vessel)
half (singular) :halves (plural)
halo (singular) :haloes or halos (plural) (An indication of radiant light drawn around the head of a saint)
handkerchief (singular) : handkerchiefs (plural) (not -nk-)
hanged or hung? :People are HANGED. Things like clothes and pictures are HUNG.
happen :happened, happening (not -nn-)
harass :(not -rr-) (Annoy continually or chronically)
headquarters :(not headquaters)
hear or here? :You HEAR with your ear. Use HERE to indicate place: Come over HERE.
heard or herd? :We HEARD their voices outside. We photographed the HERD of deer.
heroin or heroine? :HEROIN is a drug. A HEROINE is a female hero.
hers :No apostrophe is needed. This is mine; this is HERS. HERS has a yellow handle.
hiccough or hiccup? :Both words are pronounced ‘hiccup’ and either spelling can be used. The second spelling (hiccup) is more usual. (Breathe spasmodically, and make a sound)
hiccup :hiccuped, hiccuping (not -pp-)
hieroglyphics (A writing system using picture symbols; used in ancient
high-tech or hi-tec? :Both spellings are correct for the adjective derived from high technology: A HI-TEC factory
A HIGH-TECH computer system Without the hyphen, each word can be used as a noun replacing ‘high technology’: A generation familiar with HIGH TECH. The latest development in HI TEC
hindrance :(not hinderance) (Something immaterial that interferes with or delays action or progress)
hippopotamus (singular): hippopotami or hippopotamuses (plural)
historic or historical? :HISTORIC means famous in history, memorable, or likely to go down in recorded history:
a HISTORIC meeting. HISTORICAL means existing in the past or representing something that could have happened in the past: a HISTORICAL novel, a HISTORICAL fact
hoard or horde? :To HOARD is to save something in a secret place. A HOARD is a secret store. A HORDE is a large group of people, insects or animals.
hoarse or horse? : HOARSE means croaky, sore or rough (a HOARSE whisper). HORSE is an animal.
hole or whole? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: She ate the WHOLE cake by herself. You have a HOLE in your sock.
homeoepathy/ homeopathy: Both spellings are correct.
honest :(not onnist or honist)
honorary :(Note: this word has four syllables not three.) An HONORARY secretary of an association is one who works voluntarily and receives no payment.
hoof (singular) :hoofs or hooves (plural) (The foot of an ungulate mammal)
hoping or hopping? :hope + ing = hoping (Expect and wish), hop + ing = hopping (Jump lightly)
horrible :(not -able) (Provoking horror)
human or humane? :HUMAN beings are naturally competitive. There must be a more HUMANE way of slaughtering animals.
humour :humorous (not humourous)
hundred (not hundered)
hygiene :(not -ei-) (A condition promoting sanitary practices)
hyper- or hypo-? :The prefix ‘hyper’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘over’, ‘beyond’. Hence we have words like these: hyperactive (= abnormally active) hypermarket (= a very large self-service store) hypersensitive (= unusually sensitive)
The prefix ‘hypo’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘under’. Hence we have words like these: hypochondria (the melancholy associated with obsession with one’s health was originally believed to originate in the organs beneath the ribs) hypodermic (= under the skin)
hypercritical or hypocritical? :HYPERCRITICAL = excessively critical, HYPOCRITICAL = disguising one’s true nature under a pretence of being better than you really are.
hyperthermia or hypothermia? HYPERTHERMIA = having an abnormally high body temperature HYPOTHERMIA = having an abnormally low body temperature
hyperventilate or hypoventilate :HYPERVENTILATE = to breathe at an abnormally rapid rate, HYPOVENTILATE = to breathe at an abnormally slow rate
hypocrisy :(not -asy) (An expression of agreement that is not supported by real conviction)
hypothesis (singular) :hypotheses (plural) (A proposal intended to explain certain facts or observations)
idea or ideal? : These exemplar sentences should help: Your IDEA is brilliant.This is an IDEAL spot for a picnic.His IDEALS prevent him from eating meat.
idiosyncrasy (not -cy) : (A behavioral attribute that is distinctive and peculiar to an individual)
illegible or ineligible? :ILLEGIBLE = not able to be read, INELIGIBLE = not properly qualified
imaginary or imaginative? : IMAGINARY = existing only in the imagination. MAGINATIVE = showing or having a
vivid imagination, being creative, original
immediately :(not immeadiately or immediatly) (Without delay or hesitation; with no time intervening)
immense :immensely (not immensly) (Unusually great in size or amount or degree or especially extent or scope)
imply or infer? :To IMPLY something is to hint at it: She IMPLIED that there were strong moral objections to his appointment but didn’t say so in so many words.
To INFER is to draw a conclusion: Am I to INFER from what you say that he is unsuitable for the post?
impossible :(not -able)
imposter/impostor :Both spellings are correct. The second form (-or) is, however, more common.
impractical or impracticable? :IMPRACTICAL = could be done but not worth doing. IMPRACTICABLE = incapable of being done.
incidentally :incidental + ly (not incidently)
incredible :(not -able) (Beyond belief or understanding)
indefensible :(not -able) (incapable of being defended or justified)
indelible :(not -able) (Cannot be removed or erased)
independence :(not -ance)
independent :(not -ant)
index (singular) :indexes or indices (plural)
indexes or indices? :Both are acceptable plural forms of ‘index’ but they are used differently. Use INDEXES to refer to alphabetical lists of references in books. Use INDICES in mathematical, economic and technical contexts.
indispensable :(not -ible) (Absolutely necessary; vitally necessary)
individual :(five syllables) This noun should correctly be used to distinguish one person from the rest of a group or community: the rights of the INDIVIDUAL in society. Informally it is also used in the sense of ‘person’: an untrustworthy INDIVIDUAL. Avoid this use in formal contexts.
industrial or industrious? :INDUSTRIAL = associated with manufacturing. INDUSTRIOUS = hard-working
ineffective or ineffectual? :INEFFECTIVE = not producing the desired effect, an INEFFECTIVE speech . INEFFECTUAL = not capable of producing the desired effect. an INEFFECTUAL speaker
in fact :(two words) (In reality or actuality)
infer :inferred, inferring, inference (Reason by deduction; establish by deduction)
inflammable or inflammatory? :INFLAMMABLE = easily bursting into flames, INFLAMMATORY = tending to arouse
information :(not im-)
in front :two words (not frount) (At or in the front)
ingenious or ingenuous? :INGENIOUS = skilful, inventive, original, INGENUOUS = innocent, unsophisticated
inhuman or inhumane?:INHUMAN = lacking all human qualities, INHUMANE = lacking compassion and kindness
innocuous : (Not injurious to physical or mental health)
innuendo (singular) :innuendoes or innuendos (plural) (An indirect (and usually malicious) implication)
inoculate :(not -nn-) (Introduce an idea or attitude into the mind of)
instal/install :Both spellings are correct. installed, installing, installment/instalment
intelligence :(not -ance)
intelligent :(not -ant)
intentions :(not intensions) (An anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions)
inter-/intra- :The prefix INTER- means between or among (e.g. international). The prefix INTRA- means within, on the inside (e.g. intravenous).
interesting :(four syllables, not intresting)
interrogate :(not -r-)
interrupt :(not -r-)
invisible :(not -able)
iridescent :(not -rr-) (Varying in colour when seen in different lights or from different angles)
irony or sarcasm? :IRONY is subtle, amusing, often witty. SARCASM is deliberately hurtful and intentionally cruel.
Irony comes from a Greek word meaning ‘pretended ignorance’. Sarcasm comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to tear the flesh with one’s teeth’.
irrational :(not -r-)
irrelevant :(not irrevelant: think of ‘does not relate’)
irreparable (Impossible to repair, rectify, or amend)
irrepressible (Impossible to repress or control)
irresistible (Impossible to resist; overpowering)
irresponsible (Showing lack of care for consequences)
isn’t :Place the apostrophe carefully. (not is’nt)
itinerary :(five syllables, not four as it is often mispronounced and misspelt) (A proposed route of travel)
its or it’s? :ITS is a possessive adjective like ‘her’ and ‘his’: The book has lost ITS cover. ITS beauty has faded. IT’S is a contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’: IT’S very cold today. (= it is) IT’S been a long winter. (=it has)
jealous :(not jelous), jealousy
jeopardise/jeopardize :Both spellings are correct. (Pose a threat to; present a danger to)
jeopardy :( A source of danger; a possibility of incurring loss or misfortune)
jewelry/jewellery :Both spellings are correct. (not jewlery as the word is often mispronounced)
jodhpurs : (Flared trousers ending at the calves; worn with riding boots)
journey (singular) : journeys (plural)
judgement/judgment :Both spellings are correct.
judicial or judicious? :JUDICIAL = pertaining to courts of law and judges , JUDICIOUS = showing good judgment,
wise, prudent.The words are not interchangeable. There is a clear distinction in meaning, as you can see. A JUDICIAL decision is one reached in a law court. A JUDICIOUS decision is a wise and discerning one.
keenness :keen + ness (A quick and penetrating intelligence)
kibbutz (singular) :kibbutzim (plural)
kidnap :kidnapped, kidnapping, kidnapper . An exception to the 2-1-1 rule.
knew or new? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: I KNEW the answer. Nanette has NEW shoes.
knife (singular) :knives (plural)
know or no? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: I KNOW the answer. NO, they cannot come. We have NO milk left.
knowledgeable/ knowledgable: Both spellings are correct.
lama or llama? :LAMA = a Buddhist priest, LLAMA = an animal of the camel family
landscape :(not lanscape)
language :(not langage)
larva (singular) : larvae (plural)
later or latter? :LATER is the comparative of ‘late’. (late, later, latest). I will see you LATER. You are LATER than I expected. LATTER is the opposite of ‘former’. Cats and dogs are wonderful pets but the
LATTER need regular exercise. Note: use ‘latter’ to indicate the second of two references; use ‘last’ to indicate the final one of three or more.
lay or lie? :The various tenses of these verbs cause a great deal of unnecessary confusion. Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: to lay: I LAY the table early every morning. I AM LAYING the table now. I HAVE LAID it already. I WAS LAYING the table when you phoned. I LAID the table before I went to bed. My hen LAYS an egg every morning. She IS LAYING an egg now. She HAS LAID an egg already. She WAS LAYING an egg when you phoned. She LAID an egg every day last week.
to lie (down) I LIE down every afternoon after lunch. I AM LYING down now. I HAVE LAIN down every afternoon this week. I WAS LYING down when you phoned. I LAY down yesterday afternoon.
to lie (= tell a lie) I LIE regularly. I AM LYING to you now. I HAVE LIED all my life. I WAS LYING to you last week. I LIED to you yesterday as well.
lead or led? :LEAD is the present tense. LED is the past tense. Go in front and LEAD us home. He went in front and LED us home.
leaf (singular) :leaves (plural)
legend or myth? :Both are traditional tales but legends usually have some basis in fact (e.g. Robert the Bruce and the spider, King Alfred and the cakes, Robin Hood and
Myths are supernatural tales, often involving gods or giants, which serve to
explain natural events or phenomena (e.g. Pandora’s Box and the coming of evil
into the world, The Seven Pomegranate Seeds and the seasons of the year and so
leisure (not -ie-) : (Time available for ease and relaxation)
liaise liaison :(not liase/liason) (Act between parties with a view to reconciling differences)
libel or slander? :Both refer to statements damaging to a person’s character: LIBEL is written; SLANDER is spoken.
library :(not libary)
libretto (singular) : libretti or librettos (plural) (The words of an opera or musical play)
licence or license? :LICENCE is a noun. We can refer to a licence or the licence or your licence: Do you have your driving LICENCE with you? LICENSE is a verb: The restaurant is LICENSED for the consumption of alcohol.
licorice/liquorice :Both spellings are correct.
life (singular) :lives (plural)
lighted/lit :Both forms are correct.
lightening or lightning?: LIGHTENING comes from the verb ‘to lighten’ and so you can talk about: LIGHTENING a heavy load or LIGHTENING the colour of your hair.
LIGHTNING is the flash of light we get in the sky during a thunderstorm.
liqueur or liquor? :A LIQUEUR is a sweet, very strong, alcoholic drink usually taken in small glasses after a meal.
LIQUOR refers to any alcoholic drink.
literati :(Not litterari) This word is used to describe well-read and well-educated people who love literature.
loaf (singular) :loaves (plural) (A quantity of food (other than bread) formed in a particular shape)
loath, loathe or loth? :LOATH and LOTH are interchangeable spellings and mean unwilling or reluctant: I was LOATH/LOTH to hurt his feelings. LOATHE means to detest: I LOATHE snobbery.
loathsome :loathe + some = loathsome This word means detestable.
lonely :(not lonley)
loose or lose? Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: I have a LOOSE tooth. (rhymes with moose)
Don’t LOSE your temper. (rhymes with snooze)
loping or lopping? :lope + ing = loping. He was LOPING along with long strides. (Run easily)
lop + ing = lopping. LOPPING the trees will just encourage them to grow taller. (Cut off from a whole)
a lot :(never alot) (To a very great degree or extent) Remember that this is a slang expression
and should never be used in a formal context. Substitute ‘many’ or recast the sentence altogether.
lovable/loveable :Both spellings are correct.
luggage :(not lugage)
luxuriant or luxurious? :LUXURIANT = growing abundantly. LUXURIANT vegetation LUXURIOUS = rich and costly, sumptuous. a LUXURIOUS hotel
machinery :(not -ary)
madam or madame? :Use MADAM:
maintenance :(not maintainance)
manager :(not manger, as is so often written!)
mango (singular) :mangoes or mangos (plural)
mantelpiece (not mantle-)
mantelshelf (not mantle-)
margarine (not margerine)
marihuana/marijuana Both spellings are correct.
masterful or masterly? :MASTERFUL = dominating. MASTERLY = very skilful
mathematics :(not mathmatics)
mating or matting? :mate + ing = mating. mat + ing = matting
matrix (singular) :matrices or matrixes (plural)
meant :(not ment, not mean’t) (Mean or intend to express or convey)
medal or meddle? :MEDAL = a small metal disc given as an honour. to MEDDLE = to interfere
mediaeval/medieval :Both spellings are correct.
medicine :(not medecine) medicinal
medium (singular) :media or mediums (plural) Note, however, that the two plurals differ in meaning. The MEDIA hounded him to his death. (= radio, television, newspaper journalists) She consulted a dozen MEDIUMS in the hope of making contact with her dead husband. (= people through whom the spirits of the dead are said to communicate)
memento (singular) :mementoes or mementos (plural) (A reminder of past events)
memorandum (singular) :memoranda or memorandums (plural) (A written proposal or reminder)
memory (singular) :memories (plural)
messenger :(not messanger)
metaphor :(not metaphore) A metaphor is a compressed comparison:
meteorology :(six syllables) (The earth science dealing with phenomena of the atmosphere (especially weather))
meter or metre? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Put these coins in the parking METER. You’ll need a METRE of material to make a skirt. Sonnets are always written in iambic METRE.
milage/mileage :Both spellings are correct. (Distance measured in miles)
milieu (singular) :milieus or milieux (plural) (The environmental condition)
militate or mitigate? :To MILITATE (against) comes from the Latin verb meaning ‘to serve as a soldier’ and it has the combative sense of having a powerful influence on something. Despite his excellent qualifications, his youthful criminal record MILITATED against his appointment as school bursar. To MITIGATE comes from the Latin adjective meaning ‘mild’ and it means to moderate, to make less severe. Don’t condemn the young man too harshly. There are MITIGATING circumstances.
millennium (singular) :millennia or millenniums (plural) (not -n-)
millepede/millipede :Both spellings are correct.
mimic :mimicked, mimicking
minuscule :(not miniscule)
minute :(not minuit)
mischievous :(not mischievious, as it is often mispronounced) (Naughtily or annoyingly playful)
modern : (not modren)
moment :(not momment)
momentary or momentous? :MOMENTARY = lasting for only a very short time. MOMENTOUS = of great significance
monastery (singular) :monasteries (plural) (The residence of a religious community) (not monastry/monastries)
mongoose (singular) :mongooses (plural) (not mongeese)
monotonous (Sounded or spoken in a tone unvarying in pitch)
moping or mopping? :mope + ing = moping (Someone who wastes time), mop + ing = mopping
moral or morale? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Denise is guided by strong MORAL principles.
My MORALE suffered badly when I failed my exams and I lost all faith in myself for years.
mosquito (singular) :mosquitoes (plural)
motto (singular) :mottoes or mottos (plural)
naive/naı¨ve :Both forms are correct. (Marked by or showing unaffected simplicity and lack of guile or worldly experience)
nationalise or naturalise? to NATIONALISE = to transfer ownership from the private sector to the state. to NATURALISE = to confer full citizenship on a foreigner
nebula (singular) :nebulae or nebulas (plural)
no body or nobody? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: It was believed that he had been murdered but NO BODY was ever found, and so nothing could be proved. (= no corpse)
NOBODY likes going to the dentist. (= no one)
none :The problem with ‘none’ is deciding whether to use with it a singular or a plural verb. Strictly speaking, a singular verb should accompany ‘none’: NONE of the passengers WAS hurt. (= not one) NONE of the milk WAS spilt. (= not any) Colloquially, a singular verb is always used with expressions of quantity but a plural verb is often used when plural nouns follow the ‘none of . . .’ construction: NONE of the passengers WERE hurt. NONE of my friends LIKE pop music. NONE of the children WANT an icecream. Some would reserve plural verbs in these cases for informal occasions; others would see them as perfectly acceptable formally as well.
no one :‘No one’ is singular and requires a singular verb: NO ONE likes meanness. ‘No one’ should be written as two words and not hyphenated.
noticeable :(not noticable)
nucleus (singular) :nuclei (plural)
nuisance :( A bothersome annoying person)
nursery (singular) :nurseries (plural)
oasis (singular) :oases (plural)
obedience :(not -ance) (The act of obeying)
obedient :(not -ant)
occasion :occasional (not -ss-) occasionally , occasional + ly
occur :occurred, occurring, occurrence
o’clock :Take care with the punctuation of this contraction. The apostrophe represents the omission of four letters: o’clock = of the clock Do not write: o’Clock, O’Clock or o,clock.
of or off? :These exemplar sentences may help: He is the youngest OF four children. (pronounced ov)
Jump OFF the bus. (rhymes with cough)
official or officious? :OFFICIAL = authorised, formal. an OFFICIAL visit. an OFFICIAL invitation. OFFICIOUS = fussy, self-important, interfering. an OFFICIOUS secretary. an OFFICIOUS waiter
often :(not offen)
one :This can be a useful impersonal pronoun:
ophthalmologist :(not opth-) (A medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the eye)
opinion :(not oppinion)
organise/organize : Both spellings are correct.
ours :There are eight possessive pronouns: mine, thine, his, hers, its, ours, yours,theirs. They never need an apostrophe:
This house is OURS.
outrageous :(not outragous) (Grossly offensive to decency or morality; causing horror)
ovum (singular) :ova (plural)
palate, palette, pallet :PALATE = the top part of the inside of your mouth. PALETTE = a small board with a hole for the thumb which an artist uses when mixing paints. PALLET = a platform used to lift and to carry goods
paparazzo (singular) :paparazzi (plural) (A freelance photographer who pursues celebrities trying to take candid photographs of them to sell to newspapers or magazines)
paralyse/paralyze : Both spellings are correct. (Make powerless and unable to function)
paralysis : (Loss of the ability to move a body part)
parent :(not perant)
parenthesis (singular) :parentheses (plural)
partake or participate? :PARTAKE = to share with others (especially food and drink). PARTICIPATE = to join in an activity; to play a part in. They PARTOOK solemnly of lamb, herbs and salt. Will you be able to PARTICIPATE in the firm’s pension scheme?
partner :(not partener)
passed or past? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: You PASSED me twice in town yesterday. In the PAST, women had few rights. In PAST times, women had few rights. I walk PAST your house every day.
passenger :(not passanger)
pastime :(not -tt-)
payment :(not paiment)
peace or piece? :There were twenty-one years of PEACE between the two wars. Would you like a PIECE of pie?
peculiar (not perc-) (Beyond or deviating from the usual or expected)
pedal or peddle? :a PEDAL = a lever you work with your foot. PEDDLE = to sell (especially drugs)
peninsula or peninsular? :
PENINSULA is a noun meaning a narrow piece of land jutting out from the mainland
into the sea. It is derived from two Latin words: paene (almost) and insula (island).
people :(not peple)
perhaps :(not prehaps)
period :(not pieriod)
permanent :(not -ant)
perseverance :(not perser-)
personal or personnel? :Sarah has taken all her PERSONAL belongings with her. She was upset by a barrage of PERSONAL remarks. All the PERSONNEL will be trained in first aid. Write to the PERSONNEL office and see if a vacancy is coming up. (Note the spelling of personnel with -nn-)
perspicacity or perspicuity? :PERSPICACITY = discernment, shrewdness, clearness of understanding PERSPICUITY = lucidity, clearness of expression
phenomenon (singular) :phenomena (plural)
pigmy/pygmy (singular) :pigmies/pygmies (plural)
pining or pinning? :pine +ing = pining (Have a desire for something or someone who is not present)
pin + ing = pinning
plateau (singular) :plateaus or plateaux (plural) (A relatively flat highland)
pleasant :(not plesant)
possible :(not -able)
possible or probable? :POSSIBLE = could happen. PROBABLE = very likely to happen.
potato (singular) :potatoes (plural)
practical or practicable? : A PRACTICAL person is one who is good at doing and making things. A PRACTICAL suggestion is a sensible, realistic one that is likely to succeed. A PRACTICABLE suggestion is merely one that will work. The word ‘practicable’ means ‘able to be put into practice’. It does not carry all the additional meanings of ‘practical’.
practice or practise? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: PRACTICE makes perfect. An hour’s PRACTICE every day will yield returns. The young doctor has built up a busy PRACTICE. In the examples above, ‘practice’ is a noun. You should PRACTISE every day. PRACTISE now! In these examples, ‘practise’ is a verb.
precede or proceed? :PRECEDE = to go in front of. PROCEED = to carry on, especially after having stopped.
Prefer :preferred, preferring, preference
present :(not -ant)
primitive :(not -mat-)
principal or principle? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Rebuilding the school is their PRINCIPALaim. (= chief) The PRINCIPAL announced the results. (= chief teacher) His guiding PRINCIPLE was to judge no one hastily. (= moral rule)
privilege :(not privelege or priviledge)
probably :(not propably)
procedure :(not proceedure)
proclamation :(not -claim-)
profession :(not -ff-)
prognosis (singular) :prognoses (plural) (A prediction about how something (as the weather) will develop)
program or programme? :Use PROGRAM when referring to a computer program. Use PROGRAMME on all other occasions.
prominent :(not -ant) (Having a quality that thrusts itself into attention)
pronounceable :(not pronouncable)
pronunciation :(not pronounciation)
propaganda :(not propo-) (Information that is spread for the purpose of promoting some cause)
prophecy or prophesy? :These two words look very similar but are pronounced differently. The last syllable of PROPHECY rhymes with ‘sea’; the last syllable of PROPHESY rhymes with ‘sigh’. Use the exemplar sentences as a guide: Most of us believed her PROPHECY that the world would end on 31 December. (prophecy = a noun) In the example above, you could substitute the noun ‘prediction’. We all heard him PROPHESY that the world would end at the weekend. (prophesy = a verb) In the example above, you could substitute the verb ‘predict’.
publicly :(not publically)
quarrel :quarrelled, quarrelling (Have a disagreement over something)
questionnaire :(not -n-)
queue :queued, queuing or queueing
quiet or quite? :The children were as QUIET as mice.(quiet = two syllables) You are QUITE right. (quite = one
radiator :(not -er)
radically :radical + ly (In a radical manner)
radius (singular) :radii or radiuses (plural)
raise or rise? :Let us look at these two words first as verbs (doing words): My landlord has decided to RAISE the rent. He RAISED the rent a year ago. He has RAISED the rent three times in four years. My expenses RISE all the time. They ROSE very steeply last year. They have RISEN steadily this
An increase in salary is called ‘a rise’ in the
UK and ‘a
raise’ in . America
raping or rapping? :rape + ing = raping, rap + ing = rapping
rapt or wrapped? :RAPT = enraptured (RAPT in thought) WRAPPED = enclosed in paper or soft material
raspberry :(not rasberry)
ratable/rateable :Both spellings are correct.
realise/realize :Both spellings are correct.
really :real + ly
recent or resent? :RECENT = happening not long ago, RESENT = to feel aggrieved and be indignant recipe
recognise/recognize :Both spellings are correct.
recover or re-cover? :Bear in mind the difference in meaning that the hyphen makes: RECOVER = get better, regain possession. RE-COVER = to cover again
refectory :(not refrectory) (A communal dining-hall (usually in a monastery))
refer :referred, referring, referee, reference
referee or umpire? :REFEREE = football, boxing. UMPIRE = baseball, cricket, tennis.
refrigerator :(abbreviation = fridge)
regal or royal? :REGAL = fit for a king or queen; resembling the behaviour of a king or queen. ROYAL = having the status of a king or queen, or being a member of their family .
regret :regretted, regretting, regrettable, regretful
relevant :(not revelant)
remember :(not rember)
repellent or repulsive?:Both words mean ‘causing disgust or aversion’. REPULSIVE, however, is the stronger of the two; it has the sense of causing ‘intense disgust’, even horror in some circumstances.
REPELLENT can also be used in the sense of being able to repel particular pests (a mosquito repellent) and in the sense of being impervious to certain substances (water-repellent).
repetition :(not -pit-)
repetitious or repetitive? :Both words are derived from ‘repetition’. Use REPETITIOUS when you want to criticise something spoken or written for containing tedious and excessive repetition. ‘Repetitious’ is a derogatory term. Use REPETITIVE when you want to make the point that speech, writing or an
activity involves a certain amount of repetition (e.g. work on an assembly line in a factory). ‘Repetitive’ is a neutral word.
reservoir :From ‘reserve’. (not resevoir)
responsibility :(not -ability)
responsible :(not -able)
restaurateur :(not restauranteur) (The proprietor of a restaurant)
resuscitate :(not rescusitate) (Cause to regain consciousness)
reverend or reverent? :REVEREND = deserving reverence; title for a cleric. The Revd. C. Benson The Rev. C. Benson .REVERENT = showing reverence REVERENT pilgrims
reversible :(not -able)
ridiculous :(not rediculous) The word comes from the Latin ridere, meaning ‘to laugh’.
rigorous or vigorous? :RIGOROUS = exhaustive, very thorough, exacting physically or mentally. VIGOROUS = full of energy
robing or robbing? robe + ing = robbing, rob + ing = robbing
Romania/Rumania :Both spellings are correct.
roof (singular) :roofs (plural) (not rooves)
sacrifice :(not sacra-)
sacrilege :(not sacra-)
safely :safe + ly
sanatorium (singular) :sanatoria or sanatoriums (plural)
sandwich :(not sanwich)
scan :Scan has a number of meanings in different subject areas: " It can mean to analyse the metre of a line of poetry. " It can mean ‘to look at all parts carefully in order to detect irregularities’ (as in radar SCANNING and body SCANNING). " It can mean to read intently and quickly in order to establish the relevant points. When we talk of ‘just SCANNING the headlines’, we shouldn’t mean ‘glancing quickly over them without taking them in’. Scanning is a very intensive and selective process.
scarcely :This word needs care both in spelling and in usage. (Only a very short time before, Almost not)
scarf (singular) :scarfs or scarves (plural)
scaring or scarring? :scare + ing = scaring (Cause fear in), scar + ing = scarring. A mark left (usually on the skin) by the healing of injured tissue)
scenery :(not -ary)
sceptic or septic? :A SCEPTIC is one who is inclined to doubt or question accepted truths. SEPTIC is an adjective meaning ‘infected by bacteria’ (a SEPTIC wound). It also describes the drainage system in country areas which uses bacteria to aid decomposition (SEPTIC drainage, a SEPTIC tank).
Scotch, Scots or Scottish? :Use SCOTCH only in such phrases as SCOTCH broth, SCOTCH whisky, SCOTCH eggs, SCOTCH mist and so on. When referring to the people of
call them the SCOTS or the Scotland
SCOTTISH. The term SCOTCH can cause offence. The words SCOTS is often used in connection with aspects of language: He has a strong SCOTS accent.
The SCOTS language is quite distinct from English. What is the SCOTS word for ‘small’? We also talk about SCOTS law being different from English law. In connection with people, we have therather formal terms Scotsman/Scotsmen and Scotswoman/Scotswomen. Remember also the Scots Guards. SCOTTISH is used rather more generally to refer to aspects of landscape and culture: SCOTTISH history, SCOTTISH dancing, SCOTTISH traditions, SCOTTISH universities, the SCOTTISH Highlands
seasonable or seasonal? :SEASONABLE = normal for the time of year (SEASONABLE weather) SEASONAL = happening at a particular. season (SEASONAL employment)
secretary (singular) :secretaries (plural) (not secer-)
seize :(not -ie-)
self (singular) :selves (plural)
Sellotape :(not cellotape)
sensual or sensuous? :SENSUAL = appealing to the body (especially through food, drink and sex) SENSUOUS = appealing to the senses aesthetically (especially through music, poetry, art)
sentence :(not -ance)
sentiment or sentimentality? :SENTIMENT = a sincere emotional feeling., SENTIMENTALITY = over-indulgent, maudlin wallowing in emotion (sometimes with the suggestion of falseness and exaggeration)
sentimental :This adjective comes from both ‘sentiment’ and ‘sentimentality’ and so can be used in a fairly neutral way as well as a pejorative way: SENTIMENTAL value (from sentiment) for SENTIMENTAL reasons (from sentiment) sickly SENTIMENTAL songs (from sentimentality)
separate :(not seperate) Remember that there is A RAT in sep/A/RAT/e.
separate :separated, separating, separation
sergeant :(not sergant)
serviceable: (not servicable)
sew or sow? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Sarah can SEW and knit beautifully. She is SEWING her trousseau now. She SEWED my daughter’s christening gown by hand. She has SEWN all her life. The best time to SOW broad beans is in the autumn. He’s out now SOWING parsley and sage. He SOWED seed that he saved from the year before. He has SOWN the last of the lettuce seed.
sewage or sewerage? :SEWAGE = the waste products carried off by means of sewers. SEWERAGE = the provision of a drainage system
shaming or shamming? :shame + ing = shaming, sham + ing = shamming
sheaf (singular) :sheaves (plural) (A package of several things tied together for carrying or storing)
shear or sheer? :SHEAR is a verb (a doing word) and means to cut off. SHEER is an adjective and means very
thin (SHEER material), almost perpendicular (a SHEER cliff) or wholehearted (SHEER delight).
sheikh :(also sheik, shaikh, shaykh – but these are less usual spellings) (The leader of an Arab village or family)
shelf (singular) :shelves (plural)
sheriff :(not -rr-) (The principal law-enforcement officer in a county)
shining or shinning? :shine + ing = shining, shin + ing = shinning
shriek :(not shreik) (A high-pitched noise resembling a human cry)
shy :shyer, shyest Follows the -y rule.
shyly :(exception to the -y rule)
shyness :(exception to the -y rule)
siege :(not -ei) (The action of an armed force that surrounds a fortified place and isolates it while continuing to attack)
silicon or silicone? :SILICON = element used in electronics industry (SILICON chip), SILICONE = compound containing silicon and used in lubricants and polishes and in cosmetic surgery (SILICONE
simile :(not similie) (A figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds) A simile is a comparison, usually beginning with ‘like’ or ‘as’/‘as if’.
sincerely :sincere + ly (not sincerly)
singeing or singing? : singe + ing = singeing , sing + ing = singing
sirocco/scirocco :Both spellings are correct. (A windstorm that lifts up clouds of dust or sand)
siting or sitting? :site + ing = siting (Assign a location to) sit + ing = sitting
slily/slyly :Both spellings are correct but the second is more commonly used. (In an artful manner)
sloping or slopping? :slope + ing = sloping, slop + ing = slopping
sly slyer, slyest
sniping or snipping? :snipe + ing = sniping, snip + ing = snipping
sobriquet/soubriquet :Both spellings are correct. (A familiar name for a person)
social or sociable? :SOCIAL = related to society. a SOCIAL worker, a SOCIAL problem,SOCIAL policy, SOCIAL housing. SOCIABLE = friendly. a very SOCIABLE person
soldier :Take care with the spelling of this word. (soldiers of the Queen, not soliders!)
somebody :(not sombody)
something :(not somthing)
some times or sometimes? :Use the exemplar sentences as a guide: There are SOME TIMES when I want to leave college. (= some occasions) SOMETIMES I want to leave college. (=occasionally)
sovereign :(exception to the -ie- rule) ((of political bodies) not controlled by outside forces)
speech :(not speach)
stationary or stationery? : STATIONARY = standing still (a STATIONARY car) , STATIONERY = notepaper and envelopes
stiletto (singular) :stilettos (plural) (A small dagger with a tapered blade)
stimulant or stimulus? :Both words are related to ‘stimulate’ but there is a difference in meaning: A STIMULANT is a temporary energizer like drink or drugs. A STIMULUS is something that motivates (like competition).
stimulus (singular) :stimuli (plural)
storey (plural storeys) or story (plural stories)? :STOREY = one floor or level in a building. A bungalow is a single- STOREY structure. A tower block can have twenty STOREYS. STORY = a tale. I read a STORY each night to my little brother. Children love STORIES.
strategem or strategy? :STRATEGEM = a plot, scheme,sometimes a trick, which will outwit an opponent or overcome a difficulty. STRATEGY = the overall plan for conducting a war or achieving a major objective
strategy or tactics? :STRATEGY = the overall plan or policy for achieving an objective. TACTICS = the procedures necessary to carry out the strategic policy.
stratum (singular) :strata (plural)
subtle : (Difficult to detect or grasp by the mind or analyse)
success (singular) :successes (plural)
sufferance (Patient endurance especially of pain or distress)
suggest :(not surjest)
supersede :(not -cede) (Take the place or move into the position of)
supervise :(not -ize)
surfeit :(not -ie-, exception to rule) (The state of being more than full)
surprise :(not suprise or surprize)
surreptitious : (Conducted with or marked by hidden aims or methods)
survivor :(not -er)
swam or swum? :Note these tenses of ‘to swim’: I SWAM the Channel last year. I have SWUM the Channel five times.
swinging or swingeing?:swing + ing = swinging, swinge + ing = swingeing
syllabus (singular) :syllabuses or syllabi (plural)
synchronise/ synchronize: Both spellings are correct.
synopsis (singular) :synopses (plural)
tableau (singular) :tableaux (plural) (A group of people attractively arranged (as if in a painting))
taping or tapping? :tape + ing = taping. tap + ing = tapping
tariff :(not -rr-)
taught or taut? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Mrs Jenkins TAUGHT maths. Hold the line TAUT. Pull it tight.
tee shirt/T-shirt :Both versions are correct.
temperature (four syllables)
tempo (singular) : tempi or tempos (plural) (The rate of some repeating event)
tendency :(not -ancy)
terminus (singular) :termini or terminuses (plural) (A place where something ends or is complete)
terrible :(not -able) (Causing fear or dread or terror)
testimonial or testimony? : TESTIMONIAL = formal statement in the form of an open letter bearing witness to someone’s character, qualifications and relevant experience. TESTIMONY = formal written or spoken statement of evidence, especially in a court of law
thank you or thank-you? :(never thankyou!) I should like to THANK YOU very much for your help.THANK YOU for your help. I have written all my THANK-YOU letters.You will see that ‘thank you’ is NEVER
written as one word. It is hyphenated only when used as a compound adjective describing ‘letter’ or another noun.
their, there or they’re? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: They have sold THEIR house. He is waiting for you over THERE. THERE is no point in lying to me. THEY’RE going to
Krakow for Christmas. (= they are)
theirs :(no apostrophe) This is my dog; THEIRS has a white patch on his forehead.
themselves :They blame THEMSELVES for the crash. They THEMSELVES were there.
thesis (singular) :theses (plural) (An unproved statement put forward as a premise in an argument)
thief (singular) : thieves (plural)
threshold :(not -hh-) (The starting point for a new state or experience)
tiny :(not -ey)
titbit :(not tidbit) (A small tasty bit of food)
to, too or two? :You should give this TO the police. Do you know how TO swim? (part of infinitive = to swim)
I was TOO embarrassed to say anything. (= excessively) Can we come TOO? (= also) They have TWO houses, one in
and one in . France
tolerant :(not tollerant or tolerent) (Showing respect for the rights or opinions or practices of others)
tomato (singular) :tomatoes (plural) (an exception to rule)
tomorrow :(not tommorrow)
tonsillitis (Inflammation of the tonsils (especially the palatine tonsils))
tornado (singular) :tornadoes or tornados (plural)
torpedo (singular) :torpedoes (plural) (an exception to rule) (A professional killer who uses a gun)
tortuous or torturous? :TORTUOUS = full of twists and turns,complex, convoluted. TORTUROUS = painful, agonising,
toupee (not toupe´ e) (A small hairpiece to cover partial baldness)
traffic :trafficked, trafficking, trafficker
tragedy :(not tradgedy)
tragic :(not tradgic)
transfer :transferred, transferring, transference
transpire :Strictly speaking, this verb has two meanings: " to give off moisture (of plant or leaf) " to come slowly to be known, to leak out (of secret information)
It is often used loosely in the sense of ‘to happen’. Why not use ‘to happen’ instead of this rather pompous word?
travel :travelled, travelling, traveller
trivia :This is a plural noun and should be matched with a plural verb. Such TRIVIA are to be condemned. (Something of small importance)
troop or troupe? :TROOP refers to the armed forces or to groups of people or particular animals: a TROOP of scouts, a TROOP of children, a TROOP of monkeys TROUPE refers to a group of touring actors, dancers, musicians or other entertainers.
trooper or trouper? TROOPER = cavalry soldier or member of an armoured unit. He swears like a TROOPER at nine years old. TROUPER = a touring entertainer. Jack Densley is a grand old TROUPER.
truly :(not truely, an exception to the -y rule)
tumulus (singular) :tumuli (plural) ((archeology) a heap of earth placed over prehistoric tombs)
turf (singular) :turfs or turves (plural) (Surface layer of ground containing a mat of grass and grass roots)
twelfth :(not twelth, as it is often mispronounced)
ultimatum (singular) :ultimata or ultimatums (plural) (A final peremptory demand)
umbrella :(not umberella)
underlay or underlie? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: to UNDERLAY = to lay or place under. You should UNDERLAY the carpet with felt if your floorboards are very uneven. I UNDERLAID this carpet with very thick felt because the floorboards were so uneven. This carpet IS UNDERLAID with felt. to UNDERLIE = to be situated under(esp. rocks) Granite UNDERLIES the sandstone here.
Granite UNDERLAY the sandstone, as we soon discovered. The sandstone here IS UNDERLAIN by granite.also: The UNDERLYING problem is poverty.
underrate :under + rate
unequivocally :unequivocal + ly (not unequivocably) (In an unambiguous manner)
unexceptionable or unexceptional? :UNEXCEPTIONABLE = inoffensive, not likely to cause criticism or objections
UNEXCEPTIONAL = ordinary, run-of-the-mill
unget-at-able :(not un-get-at-able) (Difficult to reach or attain)
unique :Remember, that ‘unique’ is absolute. It means ‘the only one of its kind’. Something is either unique or it’s not. It can’t be ‘quite unique’ or ‘very unique’.
unmanageable :(not unmanagable)
unmistakable/ unmistakeable :Both spellings are correct.
unnatural :un + natural
unnecessary :un + necessary
until :(not untill)
upon :(not apon)
upstairs :(one word)
urban or urbane? :URBAN = relating to a town or city. URBAN population. URBANE = suave, courteous
usurper (not -or) :( One who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another)
Vase :(An open jar of glass or porcelain used as an ornament or to hold flowers)
vegetable :(not vegtable)
vehicle :(not vechicle)
vengeance :(not vengance) (The act of taking revenge)
ventilation :(not venta-)
veracity or voracity? :VERACITY = truthfulness, VORACITY = greed
veranda/verandah :Both spellings are correct.
vertebra (singular) :vertebrae (plural) (One of the bony segments of the spinal column)
veterinary (five syllables!)
vice versa : (With the order reversed)
vicious : ((of persons or their actions) able or disposed to inflict pain or suffering)
vigorous :(not vigourous) (Characterized by forceful and energetic action or activity)
vigour (Forceful exertion)
virtuoso (singular) :virtuosi or virtuosos (plural) (Someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field)
visible :(not -able)
visitor :(not -er)
vocabulary :(five syllables)
volcano (singular) :volcanoes or volcanos (plural)
voluntary (Of your own free will or design; done by choice; not forced or compelled)
volunteer :volunteered, volunteering
vortex (singular) :vortexes or vortices (plural) (The shape of something rotating rapidly)
waist or waste? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: Tie this rope around your WAIST. Don’t WASTE paper. What do you do with WASTE paper? Industrial WASTE causes pollution.
waive or wave? :WAIVE = to give something up or not exact it. I shall WAIVE the fine on this occasion. WAVE = to move something to and fro. WAVE to the Queen.
wander or wonder? :I love to WANDER through the forest. (rhymes with girl’s name, Wanda). I WONDER what has happened to him. (rhymes with ‘under’)
weak or week? :WEAK = feeble, WEEK = seven days
weather or whether? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: The WEATHER this winter has been awful. I don’t know WHETHER I can help. (= if)
Wednesday :(not Wensday)
weir :(exception to the -ie- rule) (A low dam built across a stream to raise its level or divert its flow)
weird (exception to the -ie- rule) (Strikingly odd or unusual)
were or where? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: We WERE walking very fast. (rhymes with ‘her’) WHERE are you? (rhymes with ‘air’) Do you know WHERE he is? This is the house WHERE I was born.
wharf (singular) :wharfs or wharves (plural) (A platform built out from the shore into the water and supported by piles; provides access to ships and boats)
whilst :(exception to magic -e rule) (At the same time that)
whiskey or whisky? :WHISKEY is distilled in
WHISKY is distilled in Ireland . Scotland
wholly :(exception to the magic e- rule) (To a complete degree or to the full or entire extent)
who’s or whose? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: WHO’S been eating my porridge? (= who has)
WHO’S coming to supper? (= who is). WHOSE calculator is this? (= belonging to whom) There’s a girl WHOSE cat was killed.
wife (singular) :wives (plural)
wilful :(not willful) (Habitually disposed to disobedience and opposition)
wining or winning? :wine + ing = wining, win + ing = winning
withhold :(not withold) (Hold back; refuse to hand over or share)
wolf (singular) :wolves (plural)
woman (singular) :women (plural)
woollen :(not woolen)
worship :worshipped, worshipping, worshipper
wreath or wreathe? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: She lay a WREATH of lilies on his grave. (= noun)
Look at him WREATHED in cigarette smoke. (verb, rhymes with ‘seethed’)
writer :(not writter)
wry :wrier or wryer, wriest or wryest (Humorously sarcastic or mocking)
wryly :(exception to the y- rule) (In a wry manner)
Yacht :( An expensive vessel propelled by sail or power and used for cruising or racing)
yoghurt/youghourt/ yougurt :All these spellings are correct. (A custard-like food made from curdled milk)
yoke or yolk? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: The YOKE of the christening gown was beautifully embroidered. The oxen were YOKED together. She will eat only the YOLK of the egg.
your or you’re? :Use these exemplar sentences as a guide: YOUR essay is excellent. (= belonging to you) YOU’RE joking! (= you are), yours This is YOURS. No apostrophe needed!
Zealous :( Marked by active interest and enthusiasm)
Zimmer frame :( A light enclosing framework (trade name Zimmer) with rubber castors or wheels and handles; helps invalids or the handicapped or the aged to walk)
zloty (singular) :zloties or zlotys (plural) (The basic unit of money in
zoological :( Concerning the study of animals and their classification and properties)