It’s no secret that we love the English language – but WHY is it so full of conundrums and confusion? When writing our initial Grammar tips for your business blog, we stumbled across so many examples of wordy woes that we quickly realised a second post was needed – in fact, we may well end up writing a third!
So if you’re scratching your head over what to use when, these tips might help:
1. Advise or advice?
Despite sounding very similar, these two have their differences – not least because one is a noun (advice) and the other a verb (to advise). To remember which to use, think of the ‘s’ in advise, which is the right word when you are offering suggestions or instructions. If you are giving advice, on the other hand, you’re giving an opinion or a recommendation – remember the ‘c’!
One of the most misspelt words we see, but actually one of the easiest to remember – there is ‘a rat’ in separate. There you go; that’s it!
3. It’s or its?
Again, these two are commonly muddled, so think carefully about what you’re trying to say. When shortening ‘it is’, you need the apostrophe to show that a letter has been replaced, so you would use it’s. But to signify a possession – for example, the dog had a bone in its mouth – no apostrophe is needed. A little trick is to imagine the dog is male and replace ‘its’ with ‘his’. There’s no apostrophe in ‘his’, and so the same applies to ‘its’.
Are you one of the many people who never knows how many ‘c’s and ‘s’s to use? The answer is one ‘c’, two ‘s’s – and here’s how to remember! One colour, two socks – no one likes a pair of odd socks, after all!
Just as you’re getting your head around that one, we move swiftly on to ‘unnecessary’. There are two ‘n’s; think no nods of surprise at those socks!
5. There, their or they’re?
These all sound similar and are often used in the wrong context, but help is at hand!
‘There’ is the opposite of ‘here’, so just add a ‘t’ to ‘here’ and you’re, well, there!
The same trick applies to ‘their’, which refers to a group of people. Think family; again taking away the letter ‘t’ you have the word ‘heir’, so you just have to remember their family heirloom.
‘They’re’, meanwhile, abbreviates ‘they are’, and again uses an apostrophe to signify a missing letter and to join two words.
6. ‘I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ (…and when sounding like ‘a’!)
Confounded? We’re not surprised! The ‘i before e’ rule is a handy rhyme to help you remember how to spell words such as ‘believe’, as well as, for example, ‘receive’ and ‘receipt’, where, after the ‘c’, you switch to ‘ei’.
As we know, however, the English language is anything but straightforward and it’s important to keep in mind that this rule has several variations and exceptions! In particular, when the vowels make the long ‘a’ sound – such as in neighbour, weigh, beige and rein – the correct spelling is ‘ei’, even though there isn’t a ‘c’ in sight!
Interestingly, one of the exceptions to this rule is ‘weird’ – but, then again, as it means ‘strange’ this is hardly surprising! Others to look out for include ‘caffeine, ‘seize’ and ‘protein’ but, basically, the best advice we can give here is to invest in a trusty dictionary and keep it to hand!