Tag Archives: spelling tips

Sow, sew, or sough?

Words that look the same, or which might sound the same but have different spelling or meanings can be confusing, so how do we handle words like sow, sew and sough?

In this case, sow can have different meanings and different pronunciations, though it’s spelt the same way. As a noun, a sow is a female pig and is pronounced to rhyme with words such as now, how, and cow. If used as a verb, it means to plant seeds in the ground, and it’s pronounced to rhyme with words such as hoe, grow, and low.



The pig farmer separated the sow from her piglets.

The farmer went out to sow the seeds in the field.


Sew means to stitch a garment or fabric, and is pronounced to rhyme with words such as hoe, grow, and low.



With the price of store-bought clothing so low, people seldom sew clothes at home anymore.


Sough can be used as a noun or as an intransitive verb. The noun means a rustling sound, and the verb means to rustle. The pronunciation is a bit troublesome, though. As far as I’m aware, both are pronounced to rhyme with how, now, and cow, but I have heard the word pronounced to rhyme with hoe, grow, and low, and also to rhyme with words like enough. Any opinions on the correct pronunciation are most welcome!

tree 2


In the early morning at the top of the hill you can the sea breeze sough (verb) through the trees.

The gentle sough (noun) of the wind through the trees reminds me of the murmur of water over pebbles.


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Far be it from me or far be it for me?

Which is correct: far be it from me, or far be it for me, and what does the saying mean?

Far be it from me is actually correct, and it’s usually followed by ‘but’. It means the equivalent of ‘God forbid that …’ or ‘Don’t let me try to tell you …’ and is used in a self-deprecatory way.


Far be it from me to tell you how to run your life, but do you really think you’re making the right decision?

Far be it from me to advise you on which lawn mower to buy, but do you think that’s the best choice for your garden?

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Learnt or Learned?

This question comes up from time to time: which is the correct past tense of the verb learn? Should it be learnt or learned?
The answer is that both are correct, but that learnt is more common in Britain, whereas learned is more popular in the USA.
Learned can also be pronounced learn-ed and the meaning is then entirely different. There is a world of difference between a learnt text and a learned or learned (learn-ed) text. The former means that the text has been absorbed by the student, whereas the latter could mean the same, or it could equally mean that the text is scholarly, cultured or erudite. To avoid confusion, it would be best to use learnt in this case, but, whatever you do, try to be consistent in your use throughout a document.

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Pedaled or pedalled?

This is another of those words that can be spelled either way.
Pedaled is correct in the USA, whereas pedalled is correct in Britain and Australia. The same goes for pedaling and pedalling. The first is correct in the USA and the second in Britain and Australia.


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Whisky or whiskey?

How should you spell this word: whisky or whiskey? This is a tricky one as there are a few ways to interpret this, but I’ll do my best to explain.
Traditionally, the Scots, Canadians and Japanese spell the word whisky, whereas Americans and the Irish spell the word whiskey.
So, how should you spell the word? You really have two choices. You can either spell it according to the convention in your country or according to the country of origin. Hence, for example, Scottish whisky, or Irish whiskey.

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Savor or savour?

Which spelling is correct: savor or savour?

The answer is that both are correct.

Savor is the USA spelling, while savour is used in Britain and Australia.

The Macquarie dictionary lists the meaning as:


  1. the quality in a substance which affects the sense of taste or of smell.
  2. a particular taste or smell.
  3. distinctive quality or property.
  4. power to excite or interest.


  1. to give a savour to; season; flavour.
  2. to perceive by taste or smell, especially with relish.
  3. to give oneself to the enjoyment of.

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Continual or continuous?

Many people use these words as if they were synonyms, but there is a distinction.

Continual means doing something over a long period of time but with periods of interruption: The dog’s continual barking had become distressing and he decided to see if the neighbours were home.

Continuous means that something occurs over a long period of time without interruption: The continuous drone of traffic on the highway kept him from sleep.

The same distinction applies to the adverbs continually and continuously.

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