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Proofreading Tips: Noun and Verb Spelling Differences

Correcting spelling mistakes is key for any proofreader. But certain errors are easy to miss! This is especially true when it comes to noun and verb spelling differences, partly because they often vary by dialect. In this post, for example, we’ll be taking a look at three cases where the noun and verb forms of a word are (at least sometimes) spelled differently, namely:

  • Practice/Practise
  • Licence/License
  • Advice/Advise

To see how noun and verb spelling differences work, read on below.

Practice/Practise

A common term that trips up even the most experienced proofreaders is practice/practise. In British and Australian English, practice (spelled with a c) is a noun:

The doctor’s practice was busy that day.  

But the verb form is spelled practise (with an s):

You must practise regularly to learn an instrument.

In American English, though, practice (with a c) is used for both forms of the word:

I practiced yesterday.

I went to basketball practice.

As a proofreader, you’ll need to ensure your client’s spelling is correct for their dialect (and, in UK and Australian English, for the form being used).

Licence/license

In British and Australian English, licence is a noun and license is a verb. For example:

I finally got my driving licence.

I am now licensed to drive. 

But license (with an s) is both the noun and verb in American English:

I have some artistic license.

But I am not licensed to publish libel.

As above, you’ll thus need to ensure your client uses the correct spellings for their dialect.

Advice/Advise

In some cases, the noun–verb distinction is the same in all regional varieties of English. For example, advice is always a noun:

Thanks for the great advice.

Advise, however, is always a verb:

She advised me on how to write a CV.

Using the Spellchecker

When proofreading in Microsoft Word, setting the proofing language is a great way to catch noun and verb spelling differences, but you shouldn’t rely on it to pick up on them all. As a proofreader, you’ll still need to pay careful attention to catch any and all spelling mistakes.

For more guidance on proofreading different English dialects, check out our post here.

Become a Proofreader

A keen eye for detail and the vigilance to perfect every document you encounter are the hallmarks of a great proofreader. If you think you’ve got what it takes, we offer a free trial of our accredited Becoming A Proofreader course so you can see for yourself. Sign up today!

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