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.