Appendix III: Word Wise




p., pp. – page, pages.

Used in referencing systems to indicate the pages of cited texts: p. 321; pp. 32137.

(See abbreviations.)


paederast – (UK)
pederast – (US & UK)


paediatrician – (UK)
pediatrician – (US)


paedophile – (UK)
pedophile – (US)


pair of was, pair of were.

The verbs are singular when the pair in question comprises inseparable items (binoculars, scissors, trousers) and either singular or plural when the
comprises separate items (bookends, curtains, shoes). Thus, a pair of spectacles was found in the library and a pair of crows was (or were)
perched on the fence
Plural verbs are always used when pair of is omitted: the spectacles were found in the library.

(See nouns expressing quantities.)


palaeontology – (UK)
paleontology – (US)



A word, phrase, sentence or passage with reversible spelling: Madam, I’m Adam. Enthusiasts sometimes set themselves the task of creating ‘the
world’s longest palindrome’ (the record allegedly comprising over 6,000 letters), but the results are always gibberish. The amusing ones are
relatively short: Was it a rat I saw?; Delia failed; Murder for a jar of red rum; Marge lets Norah see Sharon's telegram.


papadom, papadum, pappadam, pappadom, pappadum, popadam, popadum, poppadam, poppadom, poppadum.

Take your pick. Popadam, poppadum and poppadom seem to be the favourites of dictionaries and Indian restaurants  The Times opting for 
poppadum1 and The Guardianpoppadom2  but the closest rendition of the Tamil original is apparently pappadam (Oxford Compendium).3


paparazzo – a freelance photographer who pursues celebrities.
paparazzi – (plural)


parallel form.

A recommended writing technique in which the parts of speech are as consistent as possible, verbs following verbs, adjectives following adjectives,
and so forth: I enjoy reading, cycling and playing chess (parallel form); I enjoy reading, cycling and am also a keen chess player (broken form).

(See parallel form.)


passed, past.

The main cause of confusion with these words is their shared meanings of ‘went beyond’ or ‘went by’, but all that needs to be remembered is that
passed is a verb (an action) and past, an adverb (a modification of an action). In other words, passed follows nouns and pronouns (The time passed
; I passed her in the street; Maurice Greene passed the finishing line in record time), and past follows verbs (They drove past Windsor Castle;
I walked past her in the street; Through the hotel window, she could see past the city to the distant shore).


passim – (from passus, ‘scattered’) 'to be found in various places in the text'. Used to avoid multiple page referencing.


pastoral, pastorale.

Pastoral – to do with shepherds or shepherding; to do with a pastor (especially, by analogy, the protective role of a teacher: pastoral care). 
Pastorale – a slow musical composition.


peal – of bells and laughter.
peel – of fruit and vegetables.


pedlar – (UK)
peddler – (US)

Drug pedlar is thus the correct spelling in British English.



The five titles of the British and Irish peerage from high to low are (under king and queen) duke, marquess (or marquis), earl, viscount and baron. A
baronet, ranking below a baron but above a knight (except a Knight of the Garter), is not a peer but a commoner entitled to use the prefix Sir. A
marquess, earl and viscount may informally be addressed as Lord, but that title belongs officially only to barons.


peninsula  (n.) The Iberian peninsula.
peninsular – (adj.) peninsular fauna.



Preferable to both old-age pensioner (not old-aged pensioner) and the patronising senior citizen.


per annum, per capita, per cent.

Where possible, per (‘for each’, ‘for every’, ‘by means of’ or ‘through’) is best paired with another Latin word: per annum rather than per yearper
rather than per head. Apart from per cent, however, it is simpler to use the English options: six weeks’ holidays a year; £25 a head; thirty 
miles an hour
. The practice of italicising per expressions has all but disappeared.

(But see per se.)


per cent – (UK)
percent – (US)
percentage – (UK & US)

(See also a half per cent.)


per se.

The expression means ‘in itself', ‘as such’, ‘in one particular capacity or respect’: The price was extortionate and the service appalling, but the meal
per se was delicious
. The practice of italicising the expression is in decline.


personal, personnel.

Personal – (adj.) private, individual. Personnel – (n.) a body of people (especially employees or militia); (adj.) to do with a body of people. Personal
records are the records of individuals, while personnel records are strictly the records of people collectively or statistically. But personnel records 
have come to mean any records of a personnel department, whether of individuals or groups.


Philippines – the Republic of the Philippines.
Philippine – to do with the Philippines: the Philippine climate.
Filipina – a female inhabitant of the Philippines.
Filipino – a male inhabitant of the Philippines.


philosophy, policy, ideology.

The word philosophy is best reserved for ‘the reasoned study of truth or knowledge’, or ‘second-order thinking’ (thinking about thinking). A policy is
a set of principles for action, and an ideology is a system of beliefs (especially political). Systems of cultural or moral beliefs are not philosophies, 
and there is usually nothing philosophical about company mission statements or educational policies.


pie chart, not pi chart.


pigeon – the bird.
pidgin – the language.


place-name adjectives.

The modern tendency is to use lower-case initials: cheddar cheese, cornish pasty, french windows, german measles, russian roulette, scotch egg,
swiss roll, turkish delight, yorkshire pudding and so forth.

(See capitals.)


plaintiff  – a person bringing a civil court action.
plaintive – sorrowful.


plane, plain.

In the sense of ‘flatness’, plain is specific to geography and plane, to geometry. Thus: the Great Plains of North Americamove to a higher plane.


plateaux – (recommended)
plateaus – (variant)


pleaded – (UK)
pled – (US and Scotland)



Pleonasms are tautologies or expressions that use more words than are necessary: empty space, end result, forward planning, free gift, HIV virus,
OPEC countries, past experience, PIN number, true fact, unexpected surprise, unsolved mystery.

(See clichés, pleonasms and verbosity.)


plural subjects construed as singular.

Health and safety is, rather than health and safety are.

(See composite subjects.)


politic – judicious, expedient, prudent, wise.
political – to do with politics.


polyandry – the lawful practice of taking more than one husband.
polygamy – the lawful practice of taking more than one spouse.
polygyny – the lawful practice of taking more than one wife.


possessive apostrophe.

A week’s time, but two weeks’  time. Claire and Stephen’s children, but Claire’s and Stephen’s parents; Mother's Day but Beatles album.

(See the apostrophe.)


practical – useful, workable.
practicable – possible, achievable, realisable, feasible.

(See also impracticable, impractical.)


practice – (n.) (UK and US) Her viola practice took several hours a day.
practise – (v.) (UK) She practised the viola for several hours a day.

In American English, practice functions as both the verb and noun.


premier – (adj.) first in importance; (n.) prime minister.
premiere – (n.) the first performance of a play or film.


preventative – (obsolescent)
preventive – (current)

Thus preventive medicine.


Prime Minister, prime minister.


(See job titles and capitals.)


principal, principle.

Principal – (adj.) main, most important; (n.) the head of a college; a capital sum of money in distinction to income or interest. Principle – (n.) a
standard, moral or rule.


prior to.

Verbose for before.

(See clichés, pleonasms and verbosity.)


prison warder, prison wardress – (obsolete)
prison officer – (current)


procedure, process.

Although these words are frequently used interchangeably, procedure is more appropriate to human actions (a tiresome form-filling procedure) and
process to mechanical actions and natural events (the process of giving birth).


programme – (UK)
program – (US)

The American spelling is universally used in computer language.


prophecy – (n.)
prophesy – (v.)

The Met Office prophesied a warm summer. There is no word porphesise (-ize).


protégé – (masculine and common gender)
protégée – (feminine)

(See also diacritics.)


proved, proven.

As past participles of prove, both words are in reputable use, with proved the more common in British English (the defendant was proved innocent)
and proven in American English (the defendant was proven innocent). Not proven, however, is a legal principle in Scotland. Proven is universally the
adjective: the successful candidate will have a proven record in sales management.


provided that, not providing that.


psychiatry – the branch of medicine treating mental disorders.
psychology – the study of the mind or behaviour.



Change of plan! I'll be arriving earlier on TuesdayChange of plan! I'll be arriving earlier, on Tuesday. Sir Thomas More made his confession to the
priest an hour after he was beheaded
Sir Thomas More made his confession to the priest. An hour after, he was beheaded. Woman without her
man is an animal
Woman! Without her, man is an animal. Far from being the obsession of nit-picking perfectionists, correct punctuation is important.

(See especially commas.)


purposely – deliberately, intentionally.
purposefully – resolutely, with purpose.


pyjamas – (UK)
pajamas – (US)


pyrrhic victory.

A victory won at too great a cost (after Pyrrhus, who defeated the Romans but sustained heavy casualties). The employment tribunal awarded Mr
Jones £10,000 for being unfairly dismissed but, after two years out of work, it was a pyrrhic victory



1 The Times Style Guide. No longer available on line. Multiple access, 200203.
2 The Guardian Style Guide, updated May 1012. Accessed 27.05.12.
The Oxford Compendium Concise Dictionary, 9th Edition, OUP, 1995.































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