Blog posts

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...

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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...

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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. ...

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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,...

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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...

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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...

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Idioms about Squares

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...

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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...

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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,...

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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 make your bullet...

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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...

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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...

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Idioms for Autumn

With the sun setting earlier, the leaves changing colour, and a slight chill in the air, we’re ready to start slowing down and enjoying cosy evenings in with hot drinks and blankets. Here are twenty idioms for the autumn season: a bad apple – a bad influence/someone who brings trouble apple of (someone’s) eye – the person someone most loves/cherishes/admires can’t see the wood for the trees – unable to grasp the main issue/wider picture due to being too focused on specific details lost in the mists of time – long forgotten neck of the woods – a particular area/neighbourhood old chestnut – a story/joke made tedious by repetition out of the woods – out of danger out on a limb...

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Three Tips for Using Colons

Not to be confused with a semi colon, a colon has three main uses: Use a colon between two main clauses when the second clause explains or clarifies the first. A clause is a group of words containing a verb that can either stand alone as a complete sentence or make up part of a more complex sentence. You can learn more about clauses here. Here are some examples of colons used in this way: She soon discovered the secret to spelling success: practise as often as possible. The journey won’t be easy: the buses are infrequent and there are often railway engineering works on the weekends. She had one motto in life: never give up. Use a colon to introduce a list. You can...

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30 Commonly Confused Words

Accept vs. Except If you accept something you agree to receive or do it. If you except something you exclude it. Bought vs. Brought Brought is the past tense of bring, while bought is the past tense of buy. Cereal vs. Serial Cereal is a type of grain (and a type of breakfast food made from grain), while serial refers to something that occurs in sequence. Desert vs. Dessert Desert can refer to either the act of abandoning someone or something or to an arid stretch of land with little vegetation. A dessert is a sweet course at the end of a meal. Effect vs. Affect An effect is a consequence. If you affect something you make a difference to it. Hear...

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Twenty Five Idioms about Sleep

a catnap – a short sleep in the day a night owl – someone who stays up late, someone who functions better at night a sleeping giant – someone with unrealised or emerging power a sleeping partner – a partner in a firm who doesn’t take a share in the workload beauty sleep – a stretch of sleep will keep one young and beautiful fast/sound asleep – deeply asleep forty winks – a short sleep in the day not sleep a wink – not sleep at all ready to drop – extremely tired, falling asleep shut-eye – sleep sleep tight! – sleep well! to burn the candle at both ends – to go to sleep early and wake up early to catch some Zs – to get some sleep to drop/nod off – to (briefly and unintentionally)...

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Commonly Confused Words: Infer vs. Imply

What does each word mean? The verb infer refers to the act of correctly guessing or deducing something. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is infer used in some example sentences: She inferred from her friend’s tone that he wasn’t having fun. While it might be tempting infer from tabloid stories that crime is on the rise, it would be better to look at the statistics on the subject before jumping to any conclusions. Imply refers to the act of suggesting or expressing something indirectly and inviting someone to deduce what you mean. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is imply used in an example...

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Expressions in English: Part 2

Last week, we looked at 10 French words and expressions that are used in English. Read part 1 here and scroll down for part 2. excusez-moi ‘Excusez-moi!’ he gasped, looking annoyed. Excusez-moi means ‘excuse me’. faux pas He had no idea he was making a faux pas by putting his elbows on the table. A faux pas is the embarrassing mistake of violating unwritten social rules. The phrase translates to ‘false step’. haute couture She only wore haute couture. Haute couture literally means ‘high dressmaking’. The expression describes expensive and exclusive (often custom-fitted) clothing created by leading Parisian fashion houses. j'accuse ‘J’accuse!’ he...

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Expressions in English: Part 1

à la carte As well as a lunchtime offer, the restaurant offered an à la carte menu. The phrase à la carte translates to ‘on the card’. If you order à la carte it means you order individual dishes as separate items from the menu rather than choosing a set meal that has a fixed price. apropos ‘You tell it better,’ he told her apropos of the story about their adventure in Venice. From the French à propos de, this word means ‘regarding’ or ‘concerning.’ au contraire ‘Au contraire,’ he replied when she asked him if he was bored. Au contraire translates to ‘on the contrary’. au naturel She decided to go au naturel and didn’t wear any make up. ...

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Six Tips for Lesson Plan Success with Spellzone

Welcome to a new school year! Here are our top tips on how to use Spellzone for lesson plan success: Set the Spelling Ability Test Even if your students are seasoned Spellzone users and you have their activity and results from previous years, it’s still worth setting the Spelling Ability Test to confirm they are at the level you expect. The site will provide a tailored version of the course for each student depending on their results and the gaps in their knowledge. A baseline spelling score will also help to document the student’s progress and achievements. Find out more about how the test works here. Which course is best for your students? Spellzone is adaptable and...

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I have just finalised the progress of the year groups and am delighted to see that from December to June 53% of the 98 students using Spellzone have raised their standardised scores to 100 and above.

One of the students has put in a huge amount of effort in completing Spellzone at least 3 times a week since his arrival with us in January. Looking at his scores after the latest GL testing, his standardised score has risen from 99 to 131. This is a truly phenomenal result. I just wanted to share the best result I have ever seen.

Terrie Penrose-Toms, Casterton College

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