I am very proud to add another new category to my site, “Word Play”. Although I've been providing little tit-bits here and there, including teaching my colleague the rarely used verb to grubble, it's now time to give a central store to all these useful insights. I posted a comment on a BBC blog and in it included the line “That's why all my posts contain correct apostrophe's”. The observant of you, including Degs who represents our Civil Service, will notice that in the word apostrophe there is a greengrocer's apostrophe, e.g. carrott's 20p. I thought it was very funny and I may even try to keep writing the plural of apostrophe with an incorrect apostrophe in it (although I may get bored of it very quickly or annoyed that no one notices it!). Hence, a new category.
If you look at the heading you'll find two spellings of the word “practice” - they are both correct. To practise anything, therefore using the word as a verb, means it is spelt with an s. When the word is used as a noun, e.g. piano practice, it is spelt with a 'c'. From a GCSE website: “Think noun therefore it ends in the noun ice”. Yes, 'ice' can be used as a verb but let's not complicate things. The same applies to the word 'licence' and 'license'. Ending 'se' is the verb, 'ce' the noun. Guess what happens in the US? They spell all four words with an 's'. Curious isn't it? You'd thought they'd have used a 'z'. At least they leave 'advice' and 'advise' as separate spellings, I'll leave you to work out what each word is to be used for.
I noticed in the preceding paragraph I noticed my use of 'an' before 's' and just wanted to clarify the rule. You simply need to use an 'an' when there is a vowel sound coming next. The single letter 's' is pronounced 'ess' so you need a vowel. Likewise an 'h' is pronounced 'aitch' and not 'haitch', thus needing an 'an'. Of course the most unknown word in this whole piece has to be 'discrete'. It means to keep separate. 'Discreet' on the other hand is the more well known homonym and is the one that means secret or private.