Proofreaders find many different errors in documents (thankfully, or we’d be out of a job!). However, some are much more common than others, and one that we seem to see time and time again is the word ‘practice’ – or ‘practise’. Sometimes, it’s a ‘c’ instead of an ‘s’; sometimes, it’s an ‘s’ instead of a ‘c’.
For American writers, however, this is not generally a problem. They have it easy. If it’s a noun, it’s ‘practice’. If it’s a verb, it’s ‘practice’. They don’t have to worry!
But for us Brits, there is a choice unfortunately. But if we just remember it’s ‘practiCe’ for a noun and ‘practiSe’ for a verb, we shouldn’t go far wrong.
But what seems to cause more confusion on occasion is where ‘practice’ becomes part of a noun; for example, a practice throw, a practice exam. Some people, because you are ‘practising’ the throw, ‘practising’ the exam, wrongly feel it should be a ‘practise’ throw, a ‘practise’ exam. Of course, they are wrong, because ‘practice’ in this case is part of a noun. It is not a verb.
So, what is the best way to always get this right? Well, first of all, if it ends in ‘ing’ you always use an ‘s’ – practising for the exam, practising medicine, and so on – there is no such word as ‘practicing’ in UK English.
Otherwise, remember that ‘practice’ could be preceded by ‘a’ or ‘the’; ‘practise’ could not.
I practise tennis
A practice throw
He practises for the exam
The doctor’s practice
She practises law
An orchestra practice
… and so on
So, if you’re still not sure, you probably just need more practice… so keep practising!
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