Take My Advice – Let Me Advise You

What a great language we have. It sometimes feels as though some rascally being set out to make certain things just as complex as they possibly could. And, boy, did they succeed?

Today we are discussing whether is should be a “c” or an “s” in words like “license”, “practise”, etc. Do you know? Or do you just use whichever one, all the time? If you’re American, then it’s super easy just use an “s”. Using British English? Think again.

Perhaps you just know instinctively which one you should use. I know I don’t. I have to think about it…ALL the time.

Ironically, or maybe not, the heading of this post is, in my opinion, the best and easiest way to work out which you should use. Advice is a noun, a thing that you give, whether it’s wanted or not! Advise is a verb and is the act of giving it. And, miracle upon miracles, they are pronounced differently, making the job of deciding for those other lovely words much more straightforward.

So “practise” is playing the piano over and over again to get it right, “practice” is the dreaded dentist or doctor. “License” is allowing someone to own a dog or drive, “licence” is the actual bit of paper that proves you can.

“Prophecy” and “prophesy” are great ones too. Apart from both being words that, if you look at them for too long, look like they’re spelled wrong, they are also pronounced differently. (I admit I did not know this until very recently. I would have read them both the same.) But the “s” verb has a “sigh” on the end when pronounced. If you knew this, then this would help you choose your consonant. (Just not me!) And don’t forget “device” and “devise”.

It is possible that “license” and “licence” were pronounced differently at one time, and the same with “practise” and practice”. If you want to know the etymology, there are hundreds of websites to tell you just that. I’m here to play around with words, and to help you choose the right one.

There are many words that simply don’t have identity issues, they are spelt one way, and one way only. But again, history may prove that, these too, were once spelt differently depending on their use. Words like: promise, release, reverse, incense, sentence,  discourse, divorce, advance, silence, notice…

So, if you want to devise a device to release your potential to practise your prophecy with your promised licence advancing your career without giving notice… get a proofreader!

Editor in Person – Why You Shouldn’t Proofread Your Own Writing

Having discussed and debated the merits of the spell check, I thought I’d take some time to talk about proofreading your own work.

If, like me, you feel you’re pretty good at picking up on mistakes, that your typing isn’t too bad, and you have a fairly good grasp of English and the grammar that goes with it, then you’ll think that you can happily proofread your own stuff. Right?

Wrong!

This has been proved to me over and over since I started writing on my blogs. No matter how many times you check it, there’s always something that you missed. And the reason is: because you are just too close to the material.

Certainly, in my case, I get caught up in what I’ve written. I might be congratulating myself on how fantastic it is (rare), or worried that I haven’t quite said what it is that I wanted to say (common). Either way, I’m simply not concentrating on the phrasing, layout and spelling as much as I should. Not helped, of course, by the pesky spell check; that, even in this piece, is questioning my use of “you’re” and “your”!

I get my lovely husband to reread everything. (He’s a great fan of the comma and feels I don’t use them enough.) And that’s enough for my little blog items. I also have some lovely friends who will politely pick me up if there’s a mistake so I can correct it quickly.

As a proofreader everything I write has to be perfect. Who’s going to hire me to proofread their writing if mine is littered with grammatical and spelling mistakes. Even social media posts are perilous. Don’t even get me started on predictive text.

Fortunately most people can happily interchange all the “they’re” and “their” and “there” they want on social media.

But if it counts, it needs to be right. Don’t just hope for the best.