Do you have a blind spot for certain words? Words that no matter how many times you look at them, you just can’t remember how to spell them, or maybe what they mean?
We certainly do. Affect and effect is one of mine. I’ve got it now, but it took a good ten years and several dictionaries before it finally stuck.
Like affect and effect, it is often when two words sound or look similar, but have different meanings, that confusion arises.
Take practice and practise. They sound the same, look very similar, and mean similar things. But it’s the similarity that causes the problem. Their meanings touch on the same general idea, but their usage is totally different.
Like other c/s words such as advice/advise and licence/ license, there is a grammatical difference in British English between practice and practise: practise is the verb – e.g. to practise medicine – and practice is the noun – e.g. target practice.
The rule is the same for pretty much all c/s words: ‘c’ for the noun and ‘s’ for the verb. Some people find it easier to remember advice and advise because they sound different – to give good copywriting advice (with a soft ‘c’ sound), but to advise (with a ‘z’ sound) someone not to use a cheap freelance copywriter.
If you can remember that one, the rule is the same for practice and practise, and other c/s words too.
PS In North American English they don’t use the ‘s’ version of practice, it is just ‘practice’ all the way, verb or noun, which is cheating if you ask me.
Here at Wordsworks copywriting agency, we’re big readers. Newspapers, books, comics, cornflake packets, whatever you’ve got. And every so often, there’s a piece of writing that reminds us why we love what we do.
It’s here. And it succinctly describes the beautifully simple language used by uber-brand Apple.
The article also happens to fit neatly with our copywriting philosophy: that concise and clear is very powerful. To write words that are effortless to read.
Apple has shown consistently, and ruthlessly, that good language can go hand in hand with good profits.
Amen to that.
English is renowned for its quirky, often logic-defying spelling rules. Gives it character, a mark of our mongrel heritage, we’re told. It doesn’t make it any easier to write, though.
One common area of confusion is when seemingly the same word has two spelling variations – one with a ‘c’, and one with an ‘s’. Words like practice and practise, or licence and license.
The simple answer is that you should use the ‘s’ version if it’s a verb, or the ‘c’ version if it’s a noun.
So verb: the solicitor plans to practise law in the City.
And noun: He hopes to build up a strong commercial property practice.
Or verb: the magistrates refused to license any more bars on the high street.
And noun: So the bar owner did not receive his new licence.
One way to remember is to think of advise and advice. Because these two are pronounced differently (the former with a ‘z’ sound, the latter a soft ‘c’ like in ice), they’re not confused as often. But they do follow he same rule – the verb form uses an ‘s’…to advise your colleague…while the noun takes a ‘c’…it was useful advice.
So, if you’re using the word as a verb, like to advise, to practise or to license, it’s spelt with an ‘s’. If you’re using it as a noun, like my licence, a practice, or good advice, it’s a ‘c’.
There’s been a few changes since the last issue of Write Words. We’ve moved offices (still in Manchester, just a nicer part), and we’ve had a personnel change (goodbye Sally hello Chris . We’ve also decided to change the frequency of Write Words to once every two months, to lighten the load on your Inbox.
On the client side, plenty of exciting new projects to get stuck into. We’ve been commissioned to plan and write the content for a new departmental website at the University of London, we won a tender to plan, write and edit a quarterly magazine for the Northwest Regional Development Agency, we’re working with Celerant Consulting on writing some sector brochures, and we’re doing a monthly newsletter for Career Management Consultants.
That’s on top of the regular stuff from the likes of KPMG, Britannia and Savills, plus a whole host of smaller (but no less important projects), so plenty to keep us busy!
They say three’s company (don’t they? It might be two, but for our sakes, let’s say three), and when it comes to fluid, high impact writing, three is certainly the magic number. The rule of three is simple. It says that when you’re describing something – the features of a new service or the benefits of a new product – a list of three characteristics is always the most effective.
Two isn’t quite enough, and leaves readers thinking, is that it? While four is too many, and sounds ungainly, if not desperate. Three, in contrast, is powerfully modest.
Something that’s described as innovative, cost effective and simple to use, sounds more alluring than something which is just innovative and cost effective, and less desperate than something which is innovative, cost effective, simple to use and reliable.
Three strikes the right balance of comprehensiveness, clarity and conciseness. And as a result, the sentence sounds stronger, more memorable and far more hard-hitting. (Do you see what we did there?)