Grammar Rules: British English Versus American English Top Six Spelling Tips

english grammar rules

Most essays and exams will include points for spelling and grammar. And, in the UK, if there’s one thing that will give you away and have examiner’s (who you want to keep happy right?) pulling their hair out its confusion over British English and American English spelling.

Thanks to auto-correct on American software like MS Word, UK students are more likely to have issues. I’m as guilty as the next person so this blog is also a timely reminder for me. : )

History Time: Why are British English and American English spellings different?

The English language has stayed within its long heritage, roots and influences such as the French language.

In the 17th Century, English settlers introduced the English language to America but it began to evolve. And, after American Independence from Britain the popular versions of English words being used by American people were standardised into their own dictionary.

If you’re interested in the origins of the English language The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way by Bill Bryson is fab. (paid link)

Quick Test – So, how many do you get right?

‘ence’ and ‘ense’

Some words that end with ‘ence’ in British English are spelt ‘ense in American English:’

British American
Defence Defense

British English Example: In 1066, Harold took up arms against William in defence of his crown.

British English Example: Henry VIII could not keep up the pretence with Catherine of Aragon any longer.

Double vowels

British English words that are spelt with the double vowels ae or oe are just spelt with an e in American English.

British American

British English Example: Margaret Thatcher manoeuvred herself into Leader of the Conservative Party.

‘re’ and ‘re’

British American

British English example: Queen Elizabeth I popularized visits to the theatre under her reign.

Words ending in a vowel plus l

In American English, the ‘l’ is not doubled.

British American

British English example: Allied forces travelled nearly 100 miles to reach the coast of Normandy in 1944.

‘our’ and ‘or’

British American

British example: The colour drained from Anne Boleyn’s face as she approached the scaffold.

British example: The UK Labour Party won a landslide majority in 1997 putting Tony Blair in No.10.

‘yse’ and ‘yze’

These verbs in British English with ‘yse’ at the end are always ‘yze’ in American English

British American

British English example: If you analyse poll results from before the 2015 General Election, no-one expected a Conservative majority.

Bonus tip

Under Tools > Language in MS Word, you can set your language to English (UK) but you will still need to know the principles for any written answers in an exam or test.

If you’re looking for more on English Grammar Rules you can’t go wrong with English Grammar for Dummies. (paid link)

As always, I’d love to know your feedback on this blog or any other I’ve written for you in the comments below or you can find me on Instagram @elizabeth_britpolitics or on Twitter @_Britpolitcs.

Catch-up soon.


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Writing Tips for Beginners: 7 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotage

studying self-sabotage

You need to recognise the signs, get out of your own way and stop self-sabotaging your academic and professional writing.

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’ve got your #studygram worthy desk set up and a large, caffeine-serious drink. You’re writing an essay, political article, blog post or chunk of your dissertation.

What should be a pouring out of ideas and knowledge is more like an annoying dripping tap.

You stop. You look at your phone. You start.

You stop again and then decide what you’ve written is crap.

I’ve been writing as a student of politics and professionally for over twenty years.

I can tell you that self-sabotage is perfectly normal but it needs to be kept in check so you don’t get totally derailed and defeated.

I will share with you seven things you can do right now to tackle self-sabotage but first we need to go deep…. Ready?

In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you. 

Identify your Inner Critic. Give it a name and have a chat.

Sounds strange I know, but you need to know the cause of your self-sabotage.

The only way to do this is to acknowledge it’s there and what it truly is.

Although this blog title says ‘7 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotage’ in all honesty you will not stop you inner critic from popping up forever because, well, you’re human.

If you’re doing something that makes you emotionally vulnerable, say it has an uncertain outcome, then self-protection will kick in. It will do everything it can to stop us from doing it.

A favourite method for self-protection is to use the inner critic. Common reasons I hear all the time are:

• I’m not good enough
• I don’t know enough to write this now
• If I only had more time/the right set-up/one more book I could do it. If procrastination is the consequence of your inner critic try Anti-Procrastination Mindset: The Simple Art Of Finishing What You Start (paid link)

Or perhaps this is you?

• You’ve been putting things off because it’s a) hard b) compulsory or c) the best of a bad set of question choices
• You’ve chosen the wrong subject so what’s the point?
• You’re struggling with productive time management and distractions.

The trick is to acknowledge your inner critic, even give it a name, and learn not to listen and push on anyway.

If you acknowledge where the self-sabotage is coming from you can begin to address it and if you need some tough love I recommend Stop Doing That Sh*t: End Self-Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back from straight-talking Glaswegian Gary John Bishop.

But, be honest. If the issue is emotional don’t think getting a new desk lamp so you can write in an evening is the answer. You need to dig deeper for the truth.

“You Can’t Have Exhilaration Without Fear”

I love this saying.

Self-sabotage manifests itself into fear, anxiety and then procrastination.

It could be the fear of failure, the anxiety of possible rejection or the fear of people knowing how well or not you did?

But you can only succeed and do well if you do something. If you don’t write and submit your dissertation you fail anyway.

I spent the first year of university thinking I shouldn’t be there.

My A Level results were not great. I didn’t make the points I needed and it took two nerve-wracking days before they let me in.

Four years later I was stood on a stage in a cap and gown with a Masters Degree in Diplomacy.

I don’t say this to boast, just to say what’s possible. My inner critic popped up all the time (and still does) but I pushed through the fear and just did it anyway.

7 Top Tips to Stop Self-Sabotaging your Work

ONE. Be imaginative with your approach

You could create an outline first rather than feeling the pressure of the perfect opening paragraph. You could start on a section that really interests you, gain some confidence and move on.

TWO. Acknowledge where you are in your journey

Emulate don’t copy. You’re in the library surrounded by serious resources. But, do not measure yourself against these if you’ve just started out at A Level politics or history or at university. Yes, aspire to produce the best but you can polish later. These books, often co-written and traditionally published had a team of editors behind them not to mention the years of experience of the writer themselves – that’s why it’s a textbook on your recommended reading list! Don’t get intimidated because it’s say a ‘university essay’ – yes, research beforehand, but then just write what will be your original work.

THREE. Don’t be a perfectionist – Ignore the typos and just keep writing.

I know you’re on a noble quest to create perfectly constructed, slickly argued, pithy sentences. But, you’re never going to get your word count off single digits if the editing side of your brain challenges every turn of phrase. It will also block your creativity, the ability to get what you know out of your head, stop you being productive and allow time for your inner critic to surface. Don’t lose that spectacular argument or feeling that it’s all coming together because you had the wrong ‘their’ or ‘your’ and just had to go back and correct it. If you’re really struggling with this one try dictation.

FOUR. You can’t edit a blank page

Ok, this is clichéd. But, you need to give yourself the mental freedom to write crap. You can rework crap, you can learn from crap, you can scrap crap because it will always be crap but a) you might just having something b) you don’t know it’ll be crap unless you write it.

FIVE. Don’t hide behind research

Recognise procrastination when it’s in front of you. For me it was, and still is, research. Research can be never-ending therefore it is the perfect place to hide when something’s a bit scary or feels out of reach. Plan your research using the ‘just in time’ method. What do I need to know right now so I can start and what, if I’m truly honest can wait until later.

SIX. Don’t break off for anything (and I mean anything)

If you can’t quite remember that quote or how to spell someone’s name put your best guess and move on. Do not look it up. Just keep that pen or your fingers moving even if you’re writing ‘I don’t know what to put next’ twenty times stay in the flow. And, get rid of distractions – switch your phone notifications off, set a timer or try the Pomodoro Technique to give you a structure. I love the book Reset: Building Purpose in the Age of Digital Distraction by William Treseder. He examines how we’re all drowning in information in the digital age.

SEVEN. Appreciate your critical skills at the right time

This doesn’t apply to any negative emotions but if you’re naturally a critical thinker use it at the right time. Make your work the best it can be with genuine editing, polishing and seeking out better quotes and references if you think it will enhance the final piece.

Good luck and catch-up soon


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How to use the journalism Inverted Pyramid Technique and improve your writing

desktop scene

The Inverted Pyramid Technique is a journalistic style. It was probably used by writers to tell people the Ancient Pyramids had been built.

Ok, maybe not, but the general theory is it started with telegrams where every word you used cost money.

Basically, if you waffled on you didn’t eat for a week.

How does the Inverted Pyramid Technique work?

The Inverted Pyramid Technique

Turn a pyramid on its head.

At the thickest part you have the most significant interesting and substantial information. You want to cover, as quickly as possible, who? What? When? Where and how? You can open with a catchy question or sentence to grab attention but not too long.

In the middle you have the quite important information. Here you can delve deeper into your subject and if you start explaining anything in more depth the reader will get it better.

Down at the tip you have more general information or finer details. It is the least important part and the first place you’d start cutting.

Why does this journalistic style of writing work for the reader?

Remember, whatever you’re producing it’s 95% about the reader.

Imagine someone scanning news or education websites waiting for a friend in a coffee shop.

If you’ve put the crux of your article first (after that killer headline of course) you’re getting right to the point.

After a few seconds they can be interrupted by their lovely, but frequently late friend, and understand what it was about.

Another scenario.

They read the first few lines and decide ‘The souring of the UK-US Special Relationship’ is not for them.

OK, fair dues, not everything is for everyone. But, maybe they liked you and your style. They then decide to read your other article on the history of the UK’s relationship with South Africa. Great!

The important thing is, you captured their attention.

How is the Inverted Pyramid Technique useful?

The inverted pyramid technique helps you to:

  • Prioritise information
  • Organise your thoughts
  • Be critical and analytical
  • Be succinct and make every word matter
  • Be conscious of your word count
  • Put yourself in the reader’s shoes

Where can I best use this writing technique?

The principles are versatile. You can apply it to essays, exam questions and preparing written content for an article or blog.

You can practice. Take a subject you’re thinking of writing about. Try and do the thick part of the pyramid, just the first few sentences. Have you covered everything? Is it captivating? Would you continue reading or not?

Good luck.


P.S Already got a great idea in mind? Well, click here and let’s get you published.

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Did the time management Pomodoro Technique boost my focus and productivity?

the pomodoro technique

OK, here goes. I’m going to use the time management Pomodoro Technique to research, write, edit and upload this blog. Will it make me focussed and productive? I’ll see you on the other side…[amazon_link asins=’0753548380′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’elizabethblog2019-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’0f321245-7d5c-439c-b923-c21cdea375a9′]

(1hr and 20 minutes later)

Francesco Cirillo invented this world-renowned method when he was a university student looking for ways to save time.

But it wasn’t just about saving time.

He wanted to improve his productivity and efficiency.

He wanted to get better results with less time and less effort.

I’m thinking what’s not to like here?

So, I’m putting Cirillo’s method to the test by using it to write this blog about, you’ve guessed it, the Pomodoro technique.

Firstly, here’s how it works?

1. Choose a task requiring your full attention and that maybe you’ve been putting off for a while (we all do this!)
2. Set a Timer or Pomodoro for 25 minutes
3. Get to your task, uninterrupted, until the alarm goes off. If something pops into your head, write it down but then get straight back to it
4. When the alarm goes off – put a tick next to where you got to and be pleased with yourself
5. Take a mini-break – say five minutes – walk around, grab a cuppa, make a quick phone call then settle back down.
6. Every fourth time take a longer break. 20 or 30 minutes will give your brain a rest and opportunity to recharge.

My Review

Did the Pomodoro Technique work?

In full confession, as I wrote this the latest Brexit fallout was happening so I kept my phone on for alerts and was popping down ‘tweet latest twist’, which I did in my break, as well as making a cup of tea of course #compulsory.

It felt quite an unnatural way for me to work. It was oddly physically uncomfortable for the first 25 minutes. I felt like I was being held down in my chair or at least being told to.

The 25 minutes felt like a week and the five-minute mini-break like five seconds. I had to force myself back behind my desk and told myself I wasn’t allowed to look at anything else.

But, these restrictions did keep me working on this blog, consistency is important to me and I needed to get it finished.

Amazingly I resisted the urge to look at my email account and Instagram notifications until I pressed the publish button.

Would I use this time management technique again?

Yes. With practice I think the strange physical sensations and feeling of being told what to do by a clock would diminish.

I didn’t get to the longer break but I can see how you would need one after doing four 25 minute sessions on the same thing.

Also, the technique made me realise my breaks are too frequent and too long. I’m not very mindful of my time then wonder why it’s disappeared.

If I keep going with a single piece of work my creativity and flow begin to emerge in both my thoughts and in my writing.

I also felt a sense of accomplishment that I’d done it and could move on.

I felt positively productive and that I had a tangible answer to ‘what did you finish today?‘ rather than the usual one of ‘well, I dabbled in an out of a bunch of stuff.’

Who could benefit from using the Pomodoro Technique?

Anyone trying to:
• Complete a task on a deadline
• Tackle feelings of stress and overwhelm. Click here for my five top tips to manage overwhelm
• Pull together an outline for an essay, dissertation or exam question
• Do a task they don’t really like – Hi there procrastination!
• Write a comprehensive list
• Work through their thoughts and different arguments on a topic
• Really grasp a topic they’ve been struggling with
• Detach themselves from their phone…I’d love to know how this technique worked for you.

Drop me a message or leave a comment.

Catch-up soon


In full disclosure, some of the links are Amazon affiliate links, which means at no cost to you I receive a small commission to put back into the site. I only ever recommend products I believe will be helpful to you. 

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