Last week, our copywriters had their writing licences revoked. They were, while playing the part of practicing copywriters, actually unlicensed and illegal wordsmiths. Luckily, after some time spent practising, their licences were reissued by the copywriter licensing body, and they continued their practice in peace. Phew.

Okay, so none of that actually happened. There are no copywriter licensees, as far as I’m aware. What did happen was a long-winded discussion about four little words: Licence, license, practice and practise. What do they mean, and how do we use them?

Forget dotting your ‘i’s and crossing your ‘t’s, this lesson is all about ‘s’s and ‘c’s. When do you use one? When do you choose the other? Thankfully we’re here to advise you—or to offer some advice—but let’s not complicate things just yet. Let’s get on with the lesson and start practising.

Practise differentiating between verbs and nouns

Here’s a hint, if you can see it, then use a ‘C’. When a licence is a noun, it’s spelled with a ‘C’. That goes for your driver’s licence, and any other physical licence you have been issued.

If you’re referring to the issuing action, then spell it with an ‘S’. When we’re talking about a verb, or action, the word takes on its ‘S’ form. This goes for licensing a pub, or being a licensed practitioner.

In summary the basic rule for Australian English goes like this:

  • If it’s a noun, spell it with a C
  • If it’s a verb, spell it with an S

However, sometimes nouns aren’t quite so tangible. For example, if Julia wants to get better at the piano, she needs to practise. Because ‘practice makes perfect’. In this case, while ‘practising’ (verb) is the action Julia needs to take to become perfect, ‘practice’ refers to the ongoing act of sitting down for ‘piano practice’ (noun) every day.

Devise a plan based on our friendly advice

If you struggle to know whether you’re using the verb or the noun, try to think of it in terms of ‘advice’ and ‘advise’. ‘Device’ and ‘devise’ also work. Because we pronounce these words differently, it can be easier to hear when to use one, and when to use the other.
Here are some examples:

  • Julia devised a strict lesson plan.
  • Julia was distracted from her lesson by her electronic device.
  • Julia’s mum advised her to turn off her phone before piano practice.
  • Julia listened to her mum’s advice, and practised the piano without interruption.

So remember, nouns use the C and verbs use the S. With a little practice you’ll be a pro at this in no time. However, if you’d rather leave this business to the licensed professionals, consider recruiting our talented copywriters to do the hard work for you.
Shuttle Rocket out.