# Blog posts

## Number Idioms for National Pi Day

Earlier this year we celebrated National Pie Day by looking at expressions about pie in the English language. March 14th marks National Pi Day – a very different celebration indeed! Pi Day is a celebration of the mathematical constant Π (pronounced pi). Click here to learn more. Here are Spellzone, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to look at idioms featuring mathematics and numbers. How many can you think of? a million miles away – distracted, lost in thought, daydreaming a stitch in time saves nine – completing a task or solving a problem immediately may save extra work in the future as easy as one-two-three – as easy as counting at sixes and sevens –...

## Grammar Tips for Grammar Day

March 4th marks National Grammar Day in the United States and to celebrate we're compiling some of our grammar articles from over the years. What exactly is grammar? When we talk about grammar, we are referring to the whole system and structure of a language, the way words are put together to form sentences. Learn more about the history of grammar here. Grammar is often confused with punctuation which is the written marks used to separate sentences in order to clarify meaning. Click here for Spellzone's guide to punctuation. Here are some of our top grammar articles: Clauses A clause is a group of words containing a verb that can either stand alone...

## Commonly Confused Words: Perspective vs. Prospective

Last week well looked at two easy-to-confuse words beginning with the letter P - this week, we're looking at two more: perspective and prospective. What does each word mean? Perspective refers to the appearance of things in relation to each other, depending on how far they are from the viewer. The word also describes a person's particular way of looking at a situation. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is perspective used in some example sentences: Although she was only seven years old, her drawings showed that she had an excellent understanding of perspective. The novel was written from the villain's perspective. The word...

## Commonly Confused Words: Precede vs. Proceed

Commonly Confused Words: Precede vs. Proceed What does each word mean? Precede is a verb that means 'to come before'. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is precede used in some example sentences: Each film will be preceded with an introduction by the filmmaker. She let her friend precede her through the door. The dinner was preceded by canapès on the lawn. Proceed is a verb that means 'to begin or follow a certain course'. The word proceed is also sometimes used to refer to the income or profits from an endeavour. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is proceed used in some example...

## Happy Valentine's Day!

Whether you love Valentine's Day or think it's a complete waste of time, there's no denying that notions of love and heartbreak have inspired writers and artists for thousands of years. There are countless expressions associated with love in the English language: "...from the bottom of my heart", "I have a crush on you", "I'm head over heels in love", and even "broken heart"; and over the years we've looked at how love has influenced the way we speak and write. Here are some of our top Valentine's Day posts: You are the Apple of my Eye If someone is the apple of your eye, it means that you love and value them over all others. The phrase doesn't just apply to romantic love people often...

## Happy Chinese New Year!

February 5th 2019 is Chinese New Year, marking the beginning of the Year of the Pig. You can learn more about Chinese New Year traditions here. Here are 10 English words and phrases which originate from Chinese languages: Char This colloquial term for tea dates back to the late 16th century and is a version of the Mandarin dialect word 'chá'. Chin chin You may have heard this phrase said by someone who is about to sip a drink. The expression has been used to express good wishes before drinking since the late 18th century when it was an English pronunciation of the Chinese 'qing qing'. Chopsticks Used in English since the late 17th century, 'chopstick' is a partial...

## Long Vowel Sounds

If you struggle with spelling – you're not alone. One of the reasons why English spelling is so difficult is because of how inconsistent it is. Vowels – a, e, i, o, and u – are broken up into short and long sounds. To make things more confusing, there are also multiple ways of spelling each short and long vowel sound. In this post, we will look at the five long vowel sounds and the different ways to spell each one. Long A Sound There are six ways of spelling the long a sound just the letter a, like in acorn, apron, and alien with the letters a-e, like in snake, game, and elate with the letters ai, like in train, snail, and wait with the letters ay, like in Sunday, play, and...

## National Pie Day: Expressions about Pie in the English Language

Not to be confused with National Pi Day (which falls on March 14th), January 23rd marks National Pie Day, which has been an annual celebration of pies since the 1970s. The celebration was started in Boulder, Colorado, by nuclear engineer, brewer, and teacher Charlie Papazian who decided his birthday would be called National Pie Day. A pie is a dish baked in a pastry-lined pan often with a pastry top. Common pie fillings include meat and vegetables in a savoury sauce or fruit. You may also have heard Americans refer to pizza as pie ñ this is because pizza is the Italian word for pie. Click here to see the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word and here for the Spellzone...

## National Clean Off Your Desk Day: Top Tips for Creating a Productive Workspace

Have you ever thought about how the space you work in might affect your productivity? While some people thrive in chaos, others find mess or clutter distracting. Tidying can sometimes become a form of procrastination. The second Monday of January marks National Clean Off Your Desk Day in America and this year it falls on January 14th. Wherever in the world you live, here are our three top tips for making sure your workspace is utilised for productivity! Work in the Same Space Every Day While we don't expect you to add an extra study room to your home, you might find it productive to work in the same place every day. Whether that's at a desk, at the dining table, or on the sofa, making...

## Five Challenges for 2019

New year, new start! If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to improve your spelling and writing, you’re in the right place. Our spelling courses are great for working through the basics of English spelling and our blog is full of other helpful resources. If you’re not sure where to begin, our Spelling Ability Test will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and create a personalised pathway to guide you through our course. For those of you who are looking for more ideas on how to improve your writing, here are five areas people often make mistakes in. Pick one or more to focus on this year and let us know how you get on! Abbreviations Shortening words can be a tricky...

## 2018 Blog Round Up

Happy New Year! Whether you are a regular user of our site or someone who's just signed up, we hope 2019 will be a great year for improving your spelling. Here are some of our favourite blog posts from 2018: We began the year with a tour of our site to help you make the most of Spellzone. What your favourite feature on the Spellzone website? As usual we looked at pairs and groups of confusing words and shared tips and tricks to help you tell them apart. This year we looked at: balmy vs. barmy, by vs. bye vs. buy, capital vs. capitol, father vs. farther vs. further, faun vs. fawn, hair vs. hare, heir vs. air, hoard vs. horde, infer vs. imply, moot vs. mute, and yolk vs. yoke. ...

## 10 Words you only hear at Christmas: Part 2

Here at Spellzone, it’s looking even more like Christmas and we’re finding ourselves using certain words that only come out at this time of year! Last week we looked at 5 Christmas-themed words and their origins – here are 5 more: Eggnog Eggnog is a drink made from alcohol (usually rum or brandy) mixed with beaten egg, milk, and sugar. The word ‘nog’ refers to strong ale. It dates to the 1690s when it described an ‘old, strong type of beer brewed in Norfolk’. Merry Like the word ‘tidings’ in last week’s article, the word ‘merry’ pops ups in Christmas songs but seems to hide away for the rest of the year. The word comes from the Old English ‘myrge’ meaning ‘pleasing, agreeable,...

## 10 Words you only hear at Christmas: Part 1

Here at Spellzone, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! And along with the decorations box and that Michael Bublé album, we’re finding ourselves using certain words that only come out at this time of year. Let’s take a closer at some Christmas-related words and where they come from: Carol While the word ‘carol’ can refer to religious hymns from all seasons, many people associate the word with Christmas songs in particular. Around 1300 the word referred to both a ‘joyful song’ and a ‘dance in a ring’, and it came to be used in reference to Christmas hymns from around 1500. ‘Carol’ comes from the Old French ‘carole’. Manger Famous for its role as a makeshift bed for...

## Idioms and Expressions about Circles

a square peg in a round hole – someone who is in a situation which is unsuited to their abilities all round – for or by everyone, in every way circle of life – the lifecycle, the death of one thing gives life to another circle/sphere of influence – a field/area/country in which a person/organisation/government has the power to affect developments despite having no formal authority comedy circuit – the venues and events at which comedians perform during a tour left, right, and centre – on all sides literary circle – a group of people (usually writers or students) involved in the literary scene round robin – a competition/tournament that involves each participant taking a turn...

The square shape is often used in idioms as a metaphor for honesty, fairness, and sometimes conformity. Here is a list of square-related idioms: a square – someone with an old-fashioned/conformist/dull attitude and way of life a square answer – an honest answer a square deal – a fair deal a square meal – a balanced and satisfying meal a square peg in a round hole – someone who is in a situation which is unsuited to their abilities back to square one – back to where you started (before any progress was made) be there, or be square! – a light-hearted expression used to pressure someone into coming to an event fair and square – fair and honest on the square – honest out of...

## Spellzone's Guide to Punctuation

Punctuation marks have a variety of functions which help make writing as clear as possible. Among other things they are used to indicate when sentences begin and end, when the reader should pause, and what part of the sentence is the most important. While you might feel like using some punctuation marks comes instinctively, others may feel a mystery. In this article we'll look at the correct punctuation to use in specific situations. Abbreviations Should you capitalise an abbreviation? Does it need an apostrophe? What about full stop after it? The appropriate punctuation mark will change depending on the type of abbreviation ñ click here to learn more. Apostrophe Apostrophes are...

## How to Use Brackets

There are two types of brackets: round brackets and square brackets. Round brackets are used for parenthesis while square brackets are used for clarification. This week, we’ll look at how to use both types of brackets as well as other ways to offset a parenthesis. Parenthesis A parenthesis is a word or phrase inserted into a grammatically-complete sentence as an explanation or afterthought. The sentence would still make sense if the parenthesis was removed. There are three main ways to mark off a parenthesis: Round brackets Daisy’s parents (Sally and James) are visiting France next month. Spellzone users have access to a variety of word lists (word lists, spelling tests,...

## Five Tips for Using Bullet Points

Bullet points are a type of list used to draw attention to important information in a piece of writing. Bullet points are more visually attractive than a block of text and help draw the reader’s eye to the key points the writer is trying to make. While there are no hard and fast rules about how to use bullet points, it’s important to choose a style that will communicate the necessary information in a simple and dynamic way. Using too many bullet points in a section of writing or being inconsistent within your list of points, for example, might end up make your writing more confusing to the reader – the opposite to your intended effect. Here are five tips to help you...

## Three Punctuation Marks for the End of a Sentence

Punctuation is essential to make writing easy to understand. When used correctly, it shows the reader when sentences start and finish and what part of the sentence contains the most important information. Punctuation that is used incorrectly or sloppily, however, can confuse meaning. The addition of a comma in the following sentence, for example, makes a huge difference: ‘Let’s eat grandma!’ he said. Let’s eat, grandma!’ he said. Click here to learn more about how to use commas (and avoid implying that you’re partial to cannibalism). If you browse our archive, you’ll see that we’ve shared tips on how to use many of the more-complicated punctuation marks. Today, we’re going back...

## 20 Ways to Talk About Being Scared

Whether we love or hate being scared, Halloween is here again. Here are 20 ways of expressing fear: afraid of your own shadow – nervous/timid/easily frightened For a long time after he was rescued, the cat was afraid of his own shadow. shaking like a leaf – to tremble with fear He was shaking like a leaf when he first stepped onto the stage, but by the end of the performance he was standing tall and smiling. quaking in your boots – trembling with fear The thought of watching a horror film left him quaking in his boots. heebie jeebies – a state of fear/discomfort/nervousness Moths gave her the heebie-jeebies. scared out of one’s wits – extremely...