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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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Fifteen German Loanwords

What is a loanword? A loanword is the term given to a word which is directly borrowed from another language and used in the recipient language without being translated first. One of the reasons why English is such a difficult language to learn (and why its spellings are so inconsistent!) is because the language is full of loanwords. The term ‘loanword’ itself is a loan translation from the German ‘Lehnwort’. Some loanwords are obvious, such as words used to describe food traditionally from other countries (such as ‘bratwurst’ or ‘hamburger’ or ‘frankfurter’), whereas others were borrowed so long ago that you might be surprised to discover they are loanwords at all (such as: ‘abseil’ or...

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Four Famous People with Dyslexia

This week we’re looking at four famous people with dyslexia who flourished in their respective fields. Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath, celebrated for his technological skill and creativity. He is also famous for many of his many paintings including Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Although there is no way of truly knowing if Leonardo was dyslexic, many researchers have suggested that he may have been. One indication is his use of mirror writing, which is a skill shared by many left-handed dyslexic people. Furthermore, his spelling was often quite irregular, but his illustrations were extremely precise. Read more here. Steven Spielberg Steven...

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Commonly Confused Words: Capital vs. Capitol

What does each word mean? Among other things the word capital can refer to a city or town that functions as the seat of government and administrative centre of a country or region, one of the types of alphabetic letters, wealth in the form of money or property, or a centre associated with some activity or product. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is capital used in some example sentences: Spain’s capital city is Madrid. Sentences should begin with a capital letter. The return on invested capital was high. New York boasts a reputation for being the fashion capital of the United States of America. Click here to find the Spellzone...

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Commonly Confused Words: Hoard vs. Horde

What does each word mean? A hoard is a secret store of valuables or money. As a verb, the word refers to the act of gathering or saving supplies for future use. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is hoard used in some example sentences: While cleaning out his late mother’s house, he found a hoard of old coins. Some animals hoard food for the winter. Click here to find the Spellzone study lists related to the word hoard. The word horde refers to a large group of moving people like a crowd or a nomadic community. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is horde used in an example sentence: She...

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Five Writing Prompts

A few weeks ago we shared Five Ideas to Keep You Writing Over the Summer Holidays. Writing is an excellent way to practise your spelling, but what do you do when inspiration doesn’t strike? Here are five ideas to help you get those creative juices flowing: Automatic writing A method the writers across the world swear by, this exercise is bound to help you generate ideas. Set your timer for five minutes and start writing – don’t let your pen (or fingers if you’re typing) stop moving until your alarm goes off. Write whatever comes into your head, even if it doesn’t make sense. If you’d prefer, you can change the period of time you’re writing for to ten minutes, twenty minutes, or even...

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Are you from Mars? and Other Idioms About Space

At the end of this month, we will have the closest view of the planet Mars since 2003. When Earth and Mars line up directly with the sun, it is called an opposition and this year this takes place on July 27. From this date until July 30, Mars will appear at its brightest since 2003. The planet will be visible for most of the night, hitting its highest point around midnight. Mars will reach its closest approach to Earth on July 31 and then become fainter by the middle of August. Here are 25 idioms about space: are you from Mars? – a question used to indicate that someone is out of touch with reality/the norm everything under the sun – everything on earth failure to launch – struggling...

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Five Ideas to Keep You Writing Over the Summer Holidays

One of the best ways to improve your spelling is by making writing a part of your daily routine, but while you’re not at school, university, or work, chances are you won’t have as many opportunities to practise. Whether you’re going away for just a few days or you have the whole summer off, here are five ideas to make sure you keep writing: Look out for opportunities to practise in your established routine From texting, to commenting on social media posts, to writing shopping lists, it’s possible that your day is already filled with writing that you don’t even realise you’re doing. Pay attention to these moments and commit to using full words (instead of abbreviations and emojis!)...

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Five Tips for Using Commas

Do you find commas confusing? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Commas have a variety of functions yet many people are uncertain of how to use them. The main purpose of a comma is to clarify meaning by grouping together specific parts of the sentence. Each group within the sentence is separated by a comma which marks a slight break. Let’s look at five instances when you need to use a comma in more detail: Use commas as part of a list When you’re writing a list, the most common way to differentiate between each item by using a comma between them. For example: My favourite foods are jacket potatoes, quiche, spaghetti and fish and chips. Learn more about how to use commas...

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Older Blogs


American English vs British English: Six Key Spelling Differences
Twenty Idioms for the Start of Summer
Commonly Confused Words: Father vs. Farther vs. Further
How to use Idioms to Express Yourself More Interestingly
Twenty Idioms about Insects
Five Tips for Exam Day Success
Commonly Confused Words: By vs. Bye vs. Buy
Idioms about Royalty for a Royal Wedding
Commonly Confused Words: Hair vs. Hare
Commonly Confused Words: Heir vs. Air
Spellzone and Shakespeare
Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
Idioms about Emotion
Confusing Words for the Easter break: Faun vs. Fawn
Commonly Confused Words: Yolk vs. Yoke
Top Tips for Planning Your Writing
Commonly Confused Words: Balmy vs. Barmy
Idioms about Birds: Part 2
Idioms about Birds: Part 1
Three Tips to Help You Expand Your Vocabulary
Shakespeare in Love
Five Tips to Help You Improve Your Writing
Three Popular Idioms and their Origin Stories
Commonly Confused Words: Moot vs. Mute
More Janus Words
Make the Most of Spellzone in 2018
2017 Blog Round Up
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Who are these Christmas Characters?
Deck the Halls: Bow vs. Bough
Commonly Confused Words: Alternate vs. Alternative
Winter Idioms
Ten Redundant Expressions You Should Stop Using
How to Improve Your Writing by Avoiding Redundant Expressions
Commonly Confused Words: Everyday vs. Every Day
Happy Halloween! Twenty Idioms about Death
Commonly Confused Words: Conscience vs. Conscious
Commonly Confused Words: Bated vs. Baited
Words with Sneaky Past Tense Forms
Other Ways of Using Hyphens

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