ACCEPT/EXCEPT

Accept = to agree to do, to agree to receive

Except = not including

This is one of the pairs where in writing the mistake rarely happens – but when speaking, it may sound like a native speaker might be saying something like ‘Everyone accept me went for a drink after work.’ Sometimes, they could well be saying this…make sure you aren’t one of those who does, and remember the difference between the two!

I accepted the promotion gladly.

Nobody except me dared to argue with him.

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ADVISE/ADVICE

Advise = a verb, meaning to recommend someone do something

Advice = a noun, a recommendation

The soft /s/ (think of the first sound in the word ‘six’) is the sound made in the noun ‘advice’, whilst the hard /z/ (the first sound in the word ‘zoo’) is the sound made in the verb ‘advise’, even though it’s spelt with an ’s’.

He advised me to talk to my friend about our argument.

The advice he gave me was excellent.

DRAUGHT/DRAFT

Draught = a current of air

Draft = the first version of something, e.g a piece of writing

The pronunciation is exactly the same for these words, which is why they are commonly confused when written down.

Can you shut the window? There’s a terrible draught in here.

Please submit your first draft of the composition by Tuesday.

STATIONARY/STATIONERY

Stationary = not moving

Stationery = materials for writing

The train was stationary for a few minutes, but then continued on its journey.

Before starting school, we need to go and buy you some stationery.

PRINCIPAL/PRINCIPLE

Principal = the most important, the head of a school

Principle = fundamental rule or belief

Our principal objective is to make a large profit.

My principle in life is that you should treat others as you would expect to be treated.

AFFECT/EFFECT

Affect = to change or make a difference to

Effect = a result, to bring about a result

The heat really affects me, so I try to stay in the shade.

The effects of sun damage are long-lasting, if not permanent.

The only thing that you can do with these words is memorise them – as they are pieces of vocabulary, there is no rule to help you. Testing yourself on spelling (something which all English-speaking children have to go through to improve their own spelling at school!) is an important part of learning the English language. If you come across a word like this in your own writing, and you’ve spelt it the incorrect way, or used it with the wrong meaning, try to write the word out several times, and test yourself on it again at a later date. Words like this can only be learned through practice and correction!

E. Lawrenson

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