An easy way to be consistent in your writing is to use a single dictionary as your guide. This can be the spelling checker on your computer or a traditional dictionary in book form. Dictionaries vary, so use the same dictionary or spelling checker throughout your text.

English spelling is notoriously inconsistent: George Bernhard Shaw made the point that fish could be written ghoti using the letters gh in cough, o in women and ti in nation. Today, writing on a computer means that many of the problems of English spelling are avoided, as a word processor automatically checks what you type and can also offer basic grammar advice.

However, many specialized terms common in university and research writing may be marked as incorrect by your computer – for example the most common word processor suggests pesto for postdoc, Tactics for Tacitus, karaoke for keratose, Yeast for Yeats and baldheaded for aldehyde.

Furthermore, spelling and grammar checkers often do not detect words written correctly but used in the wrong context – principle and principal or causal and casual for example. Misspellings and malapropisms such as Jane Austen’s heroin, currant research or the human gnome project might amuse your readers but would detract from your credibility. The PhraseBook therefore includes a number of Writing Help sections on commonly confused words in university and research writing.