Need spelling and grammar help? 5 common UK spelling mistakes and how to avoid them

Ever confused your discrete with discreet? Not only have I done so, I managed to do it in front of a rather large national audience in The Guardian newspaper. English is such a delightfully perverse language that even the most proficient of wordsmiths make spelling mistakes… and then laugh at other people doing the same. Here are 5 common spelling mistakes in UK English (all homophones), avoid them or risk public ridicule on comments forums.

Note – most copywriters find themselves having to swap regularly from UK to US English and back again. The spelling tips below are all for UK writing.

Spelling discrete or discreet

Discrete = individual and separate (e.g. ‘I heard three discrete beeps from my phone’)

Discreet = guarded or unobtrusive (e.g. ‘she discreetly hid the photo in a draw’)

Spelling compliment or complement

Compliment = a flattering comment (e.g. ‘Your hair looks beautiful tonight’)

Complement = something that goes well with something else (e.g. ‘The hollandaise sauce perfectly complemented the poached fish’)

Spelling practice or practise

Practice = a noun (e.g. ‘practice makes perfect’ or ‘my medical practice’)

Practise = a verb (e.g. ‘I practise singing every day’)

Spelling stationary or stationery

Stationary = something that isn’t moving (e.g. ‘Following the accident, the traffic was stationary’)

Stationery = something you might use in your office (e.g. ‘I called into the stationery shop for a new notebook’)

Spelling who’s or whose

Who’s = a contraction of the words ‘who’ and ‘is’ (e.g. ‘Who’s going to come to the pub with me?’)

Whose = something possessive (e.g. ‘Whose jacket is this?’)


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