Practise or practice?

Practise or practice?

They sound the same and look similar, but their meanings are different, so how do you know which one to use?

To prastise (verb) is to do something habitually, such as practise playing the guitar, often to improve skill. It is also often used to describe professional work, such as practising law or dentistry.

Practice (noun) refers to an act itself, not who is doing it. Fire practice is the drill an organisation puts in place to test the evacuation of a building in the event of a fire. A practice can also refer to a business or building, such as a dental practice – a group of dentists who operate at a specific location. A practice manager is likely to look after all aspects of running the dental practice.

The difference between the s and the c is an important one.

However, in the US both the verb and noun are written with the c, so make sure you use the right version for the right audience.

Robert Zarywacz

For spelling, grammar and punctuation tips and advice on copywriting, editing and proofreading, please visit our blog regularly.

So what’s wrong with spellcheck?

Nothing. Honestly. Spellcheck can be very useful for skimming through and catching obvious spelling mistakes, but it’s not as good as a human being. Just like most technology, its specific uses are matched by its faults. And as long as you recognise its limitations, that’s fine.

Spellcheck will say that ‘form’ has been spelled correctly, but not that it should have been ‘from’. Spellcheck does not put words into context.

When proofreading, context and sense are very important; correct spelling does not achieve either.

Spellcheck will pick up many spelling errors and can save you time, although it should be used as an aid rather than a replacement for proofreading.

Robert Zarywacz

Thoughts on becoming a proofreader

Often we receive questions about how to start a career as a proofreader.

Now, we started proofreading almost by accident. When setting up our business, I was asked to proofread for Safeway Stores. 10 years later we were still proofreading for Safeway at the time it was bought out by Morrisons.

Since 1994 we have proofread for many organisations, mainly businesses. Our experience is wholly commercial, so we cannot speak for the book publishing industry.

Below are our requirements for success in commercial proofreading:

1. You need to be precise, accurate and methodical, and able to spot mistakes and inconsistencies.

2. You need an understanding of grammar and punctuation, as well as the ability to spell.

3. For commercial proofreading, you need common sense and judgement. If a client asks you to proofread text written specifically for a specialist market, such as teenagers, the writing may not be consistent with what some people call standard English. The text must be proofread with this in mind and the appropriate ‘rules’ of language applied, which are not necessarily the ones you would choose to adhere to for your own writing. So commercial awareness and judgement is required.

4. You need to be familiar with computer document formats, including word processing and PDF files, which can be amended or annotated on screen. Most commercial proofreading is undertaken electronically and annotations to paper copies are rarely used.

5. Language is always changing and you must keep up with this, whether or not you agree with the changes. As a proofreader, you can help to influence the evolution of English by ensuring it retains its intelligence, usefulness and beauty.

A proofreader can feel satisfied when a proofread text that is published reads well, is easy to understand and pleases the reader.

Robert Zarywacz

What’s in a compliment?

Compliment or complement?

They sound the same and look similar, but their meanings are different, so how do you know which one to use?

A compliment is an expression of praise. When you compliment someone, you praise them. When you are being complimentary about something, you are praising it. Complimentary can also mean a gift given free of charge, such as complimentary theatre tickets.

A complement is something which completes or balances something else, e.g. a full complement of crew for a ship. When one thing complements another, it completes or balances it, e.g. a salt cellar complements a pepper pot. Two things which are complementary balance each other or complete a set.

The difference between the e and the i is an important one.

Robert Zarywacz

For spelling, grammar and punctuation tips and advice on copywriting, editing and proofreading, please visit our z2zine blog regularly.

It’s wrong! I should have checked it.

A company spends thousands of pounds on producing a magazine: writers research topics and interview subjects; photographers take breathtaking photographs; illustrators create stunning pictures; and designers produce wonderful page-layouts.

A day before going to print, someone asks if anyone has proofread it. No. We’d better find a proofreader – quick!

Often, there is so much focus on making publications look good that the content itself is forgotten. It’s only when someone realises that errors cannot be corrected when a document has been printed that proofreading becomes important.

Is this unusual? Unfortunately, no.

Is proofreading expensive? Not when you think of the thousands of pounds spent on writing, designing and printing a magazine, newsletter or brochure – the cost is likely to be a hundred or two at the most.

Does proofreading take long? A magazine or newsletter of up to 20 pages can be proofread and checked in one day. Obviously, it’s better to build proofreading into the production schedule, just like any other activity.

What are all the proofreading symbols? These are rarely used, as most commercial proofreading is undertaken using the ‘track changes’ facility in Microsoft Word or the comments facilities in Adobe Acrobat. Files can be sent to a proofreader and returned by email. Modern proofreaders are as hi-tech as any other industry.

Isn’t it an unnecessary cost? How would you feel if, instead of being praised for your marvellous magazine, you only receive comments on all the mistakes?

Proofreading is as necessary today as it has ever been so that your magazines and newsletters not only look good, but read well too.

Robert Zarywacz

What is English?

Recently, we’ve been working for several clients who have widely differing views of the English language as used in business.

First, there’s the client who prefers heavy punctuation with commas, semicolons and other marks used at every possible opportunity to help the reader fully understand the message in the text.

Then there’s the client who prefers minimal punctuation, which leads the reader to stop frequently because it’s not always easy to understand what is being said.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Heavy punctuation can help to ensure the meaning is understood, but can get in the way. Light punctuation keeps the text uncluttered, but can hinder understanding.

The whole point of punctuation is to guide and help the reader. Surely, the best approach is to use sufficient punctuation to enable the reader to read at a good speed and to understand what is being said.

Writing for business usually requires the message to be understood fully, quickly and easily. The best way to achieve this is to put personal preferences aside and use only the punctuation that the readers needs, because if the reader can’t understand the writing, it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Robert Zarywacz

Why is proofreading and checking important?

Recently, I received a newly printed brochure from a local company.

It looked very good, but unfortunately a glaring error stared out of the text. The spelling was correct, but it was the wrong word.

Watch out for this when checking text using a spell-checker on your PC. It will not alert you to the fact that the wrong word has been used, because it is not clever enough.

Ultimately, ask someone independent of the production process – ie not the writer, designer or you – to proofread text before publishing or going to print. It’s well worth it.

Here are some similar sounding words, which have different meanings – take care when using them:

• their (belonging to them) and there (at that place)

• bear (to carry) and (bare) plain, unclothed

• compliment (to praise) and complement (to make complete)

• discreet (unobtrusive) and discrete (separate)

• dependant (one whoe depends on another) and dependent (depending on)

• principal (first in rank) and principle (fundamental truth)

• programme (plan of proceedings) and program (computer software)

Use the right word, as the wrong one can change the meaning of your text.

A proofreader can spot errors such as these.


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