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Deck the Halls: Bow vs. Bough

What does each word mean? The word bow describes a number of different things: a curved piece of wood with taut strands that is used to play stringed instruments a weapon for shooting arrows the front of a ship a type of knot formed with loops the act of bending the head, body, or knee either in reverence or at the end of a performance the act of yielding to someone else’s wishes. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is this bow used in some example sentences: The violinist had a lucky bow. She was known for her skill with a bow and arrow. The bow of a ship is designed to reduce the resistance of the hull...

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Commonly Confused Words: Alternate vs. Alternative

What does each word mean? Alternate means ‘every other or every second’. As a verb, it describes the act of ‘taking turns’. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word and here for Spellzone vocabulary lists related to it. Here is alternate used in some example sentences: We Skype on alternate weekends. They alternated between driving and giving directions. In American English, alternate is also used to describe something that is presented as ‘another option’. For example: Would it be possible to schedule our meeting at an alternate time? In British English, however, this use of alternate is considered incorrect by many. The word alternative is...

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Winter Idioms

Winter won’t officially come for another month, but here in England the days are getting shorter and the weather colder. We’re turning on the central heating, digging out our scarves and gloves, and sipping hot chocolate. With that in mind, here are twenty five idioms about cold weather to learn while nestled under a cosy blanket! a cold snap – a sudden and brief period of cold weather a snowball’s chance in hell – no chance at all as pure as driven snow – innocent, virtuous, flawless cold comfort – not much of a comfort, an insufficient consolation cold light of day – a time and place from which problems can be objectively considered in cold blood – ruthlessly left out in the...

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Ten Redundant Expressions You Should Stop Using

Last week we looked at redundant expressions and why you should cut them from your writing. Here ten examples: I am absolutely certain that the train is at 3pm. Since ‘certain’ means ‘established beyond doubt or question’, the word ‘absolutely’ is redundant. A better sentence would be: I am certain that the train is at 3pm. They should have given us advanced warning that the road would be closed. A ‘warning’ is usually given ahead of time, so the word ‘advanced’ is unnecessary. Better sentences would be: They should have given us warning that the road would be closed. They should have warned us that the road would be closed. We are not hiring at the...

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How to Improve Your Writing by Avoiding Redundant Expressions

What is a redundant expression? A redundant expression, or tautology, is an expression in which a word or group of words is unnecessary because it repeats something that has already been expressed by another word. For example: This envelope contains important documents inside. While at first it might seem like there is nothing wrong with this sentence, if you take a closer look, you’ll notice that the word inside is redundant. This is because the word contains already indicates that the envelope holds documents within it. Why is it important to be aware of redundant expressions when writing? If your writing contains redundant expressions, a reader might think that you do not...

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Commonly Confused Words: Everyday vs. Every Day

Should I use everyday or every day? If you want to describe something that is ‘common’ or ‘ordinary’, use everyday. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is this adjective used in some example sentences: He was responsible for the everyday household chores like vacuuming and washing up while she took care of the garden. Everyone else was dressed up and I stood out in my everyday jeans and jumper. You can buy everyday items like milk and bread at the corner shop. Click here to find Spellzone vocabulary lists related to the word everyday. Every day means ‘daily’. Here is every day used in some example sentences: He did the vacuuming and...

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Happy Halloween! Twenty Idioms about Death

It’s said that on All Hallow’s Eve, for just one night, the spirits will rise and roam the earth again. If you’re scared – you’re not alone. The fear of death is so widespread in our culture that the English language is full of ways of referring to death that, in many cases, mean you don’t have to use the word itself. Here are twenty idioms about death: as dead as a dodo – totally dead/extinct as dead as a doornail – obviously dead belly-up – dead beyond the veil – in the unknown state of life after death dropping like flies – dying in large numbers food for worms/worm food – a dead (and buried) person gone to...

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Commonly Confused Words: Conscience vs. Conscious

What does each word mean? A conscience is one’s moral sense of right and wrong and is used to guide the way one chooses to conduct themselves. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is conscience used in some example sentences: She wanted to skip her spelling lesson, but her conscience knew this was wrong. He couldn’t let go of his guilty conscience and eventually decided to own up to his crime. Click here to find Spellzone vocabulary lists related to the word conscience. The adjective conscious describes the act of being aware of and responding to one’s surroundings. The word can also describe the act of knowing about something or...

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Commonly Confused Words: Bated vs. Baited

What does each word mean? If something is bated, it means it is diminished or moderated. The word is rarely used outside of the expression ‘bated breath’. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is bated used in some example sentences: He waited with bated breath to see what she would say next. The audience watched with bated breath as the chase scene unfolded. Click here to create a Spellzone vocabulary list including the word bated. If you bait something, it means you are lure, entice, or trap it. If you bait someone, it means you taunt or harass them. If something is bait, it means it is the thing being used to lure or entice. Click here for...

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Words with Sneaky Past Tense Forms

When forming the past tense, words are split into regular and irregular verbs. In the case of regular verbs, the past tense is formed by adding ‘ed’ to the end of a verb (or just the letter ‘d’ if the verb ends in the letter ‘e’). Irregular verbs, on the other hand, do not follow the normal rules. This week, we’re taking a look at five words with confusing past tense forms. Is it ‘spelt’ or ‘spelled’? We couldn’t resist starting with this one! ‘Spell’ is one of a few verbs that has both a regular past tense form and an irregular one. The past tense and past participle of this word can be either ‘spelled’ or ‘spelt’. For example: I spelled three words incorrectly in my test. I...

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Other Ways of Using Hyphens

A hyphen is a short dash which is used to link words together. Last week, we learned how to use hyphens in compound words. Today, we will look at how to use hyphens when adding a prefix to another word, how to use hyphens to denote word breaks, and how to use hyphens to stand in for repeated parts of words in lists. Using Hyphens to Join Prefixes to Other Words What is a prefix? A prefix is a collection of letters that is added to the beginning of a word in order to modify its meaning. Prefixes are not usually words in their own right. Here are some examples of prefixes: un- pre- multi- post- super- Do I need to use a hyphen every time I add a prefix to a word? As with...

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Hyphens in Compound Words

What is a hyphen? A hyphen is a short dash which is used to link words together. There are three main situations in which hyphens are used: in compound words, when adding a prefix to another word, and to denote word breaks. This week, we will look at how to use hyphens in compound words. What is a compound word? A compound word is a word that is made up of two or more other words. Hyphens are often used in compound words either to show that when the included words are together they have a combined meaning, or to show the relationship between the included words. There are different types of compound words and you don’t need to use hyphens in all of them. Compound Adjectives Hyphens...

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Apostrophe Errors

The apostrophe is perhaps one of the most-often misused punctuation marks. In one of our previous blog posts, we shared ten tips for using apostrophes correctly. This week, we are going to take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make while using apostrophes so that you can avoid making them too. Never use an apostrophe to form a plural One place where people often add unnecessary apostrophes is in plurals. You never need an apostrophe to form a plural. This includes the plurals for abbreviations, letters, numbers, spans of years, and surnames. For example: cars not car’s ifs and buts not if’s and but’s DVDs not DVD’s Ps and Qs not P’s and Q’s 9s not 9’s the...

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Spelling Using the Senses

Here at Spellzone, we encourage our students to learn spelling using as many senses as they can. By learning in this way, we are able to connect as many associations as possible with the spelling of a particular word. These associations should help trigger our memories when we are trying to remember spellings. So how we can be aware of the five senses when learn spelling? SIGHT When learning a word, LOOK closely at it. Then cover it up and try to remember how the letters are positioned on the page. Picture your own handwriting and the way the letters look beside each other. Sometimes if you spell a word in a few different ways, one of the spellings will LOOK more familiar than the...

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Commonly Confused Words: Elicit vs. Illicit

What does each word mean? The word elicit means ‘to call forth’ or ‘to draw out’. It is used to describe the calling forth of emotions, opinions, responses etc. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is elicit used in some example sentences: The museum elicited huge media interest. She tried to elicit a smile from her crying friend. Click here to create a Spellzone vocabulary list including the word elicit. The adjective illicit is used to describe activity which is done in spite of accepted morality, law, or convention. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is illicit used in some example sentences: ...

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Grammar and Punctuation Tips

The summer holidays are coming to an end and if you’re not back at school yet, you will be soon. To help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite posts on grammar and punctuation. Commas are confusing, but luckily we’re here to help. Click here to learn how to use commas to separate clauses, here to learn how to use commas as part of a list, and here to learn how to use commas in direct speech. If you think commas are difficult to use, you’ll probably think semi colons are worse. This punctuation mark is used to denote a break that has more emphasis than a comma but is less final than a full stop. In this article, we look at the two common circumstances in which it is...

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Words People Often Say Wrong

A few years ago, we looked at 20 words that are often mispronounced. One of the reasons English is such a difficult language to learn is because you can neither rely on the pronunciation of a word to work out its spelling, nor can you rely on the spelling to work out the pronunciation. This is because English has evolved from a variety of different languages. Take a look at the following ‘ch’ words: cheese, champagne, chaos. While they’re all spelt with the same first two letters, the start of each word is pronounced differently: ‘ch’, ‘sh’, and ‘k’. This week we are going to look at 20 more hard-to-pronounce words, but it’s important to emphasise that pronunciations vary from region to...

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Twenty Idioms about Friendship

a shoulder to cry on – someone who listens sympathetically birds of a feather flock together – people who have the same outlook/tastes/interests will be found in each other's company close-knit – very close like two peas in a pod – very similar through thick and thin – through all circumstances no matter how difficult to be as thick as thieves – to be very close or friendly to be joined at the hip – to be inseparable to be on the same page/wavelength – to be in agreement to build bridges – to promote friendly relations between people or groups to bury the hatchet – to end a conflict to clear the air – to defuse the tension to get on famously – to get on very well...

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Commonly Confused Words: Flair vs. Flare

What does each word mean? If you have flair, it means you have natural talent for something or a distinctive and stylish elegance. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is flair used in some example sentences: It was only the pupil’s first piano lesson, but the teacher could already tell he had a flair for music. Her clothes have such flair, don’t you think? Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists related to the word flair. If a something flares, it spreads outwards. The word is often used to describe sudden bursts or light, fire, or emotion. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is flare...

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Guide to Spellzone Word Lists

For Spellzone users, word lists are a vital part of learning how to spell. While most of our students are looking to improve their spelling, it is important to remember that not everyone will find the same words difficult to learn. Students studying different subjects at school may also have different sets of vocabulary that they are required to be familiar with – it is unlikely that someone studying Biology will need to know the same terms as someone studying Drama. Our word list feature is a great way to adapt Spellzone to your specific needs by creating lists featuring the words you personally struggle with. Click here to learn how. We also have a huge collection of existing word...

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