The Better English category features all blog posts related to improving your English. There are tips on spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation.

Difference between explicitly and implicitly

Do you trust explicitly or implicitly?

When to use explicitly or implicitly
Do you trust explicitly or implicitly? What’s the difference?

When to use explicitly or implicitly

Explicitly and implicitly are two words you may write in a letter or in an email to a dear friend, a confidant or a colleague at work, but some of us still get a little confused.

We either write trust explicitly or trust implicitly. What’s causing this confusion? Aren’t they both the same words!

The short answer is no; they’re not the same nor are they interchangeable.

The adverb, explicitly means, to be clear about something, leaving no room for question or doubt; to be clear in a detailed manner. While implicitly, another adverb, means to state something in a way that is not directly expressed. In other words, it is without question; it’s implied.

If you can substitute absolutely for implicitly then you’re on the right track.

Therefore, if you say that you trust her explicitly then you trust her without a doubt. It’s a final decision.

It’s common to say trust implicitly, as your trust is so strong that it goes without saying. There’s no need to be explicit about trust. You’re not trying to avoid any confusion by stating it directly.

We found this short and easy-to-understand comparison between the two.

Quick Recap

Explicitly (adv.)
to be clear about something; leaving no room for question or doubt; to be clear in a detailed manner
Implicitly (adv.)
to state something in a way that is not directly expressed

The STAR Team

Middle East Translation - Free Whitepaper

What’s the difference between specially and especially?

Better English, difference between specially and especially

Difference between specially and especially

Difference Between Specially and Especially in English

It’s probably not something you put much thought into, and just went with whatever sounded right to you. But there are subtle differences between both words.

Instead of just diving in and explaining these differences, let’s start with some sample sentences. Can you tell us if they’re correct or not?

  1. I don’t want to be treated especially.
  2. It’s difficult to learn a new language, especially when you’re older.
  3. The service at the hotel was specially good.
  4. His speech was written specially for this occasion.

Which ones would you like to change?

Warning: the answers are at the bottom!

The Explanations

Figured them out yet? If not, then perhaps the definition of each will help…

Both are adverbs; they are not interchangeable, although in some instances they can be reversed.

Used to mean for a particular purpose

Examples (of specially in use):

  • This shower gel is specially designed for people with sensitive skins.
  • This computer programme is specially for children with learning difficulties.
  • My father made this model aeroplane specially for me.
Used to mean above all or particularly
Often used before adjectives; meaning particularly

Examples (of especially in use):

  • These butterflies are particularly noticeable in April and May, especially in these meadows.
  • You’ll enjoy playing tennis at our local club, especially on weekdays when it’s not so busy.
  • The road between Cairo and Alexandria is especially dangerous at night.
  • It’s a bit nippy, but it’s not especially cold for this time of year.

Special — Especial

The adjective especial is rarely used today. It’s only use is confined to particular contexts where it collocates with nouns, e.g. especial interest, especial value. Especial is only used to emphasize the exceptional value or nature of what is is describing.

The other adjective special means important, or something that is different from the norm.

Examples (of special in use):

  • You’re a special person…
  • On special occasions…
  • In special situations…
  • She is a special adviser…
  • Special effects
  • Special offer!

The Answers

Feeling learned! Do you have your answers at the ready?

At the beginning, we asked you which sample sentences are correct and which ones aren’t…

  1. Incorrect: it’s specially NOT especially
  2. Correct: it’s especially
  3. Incorrect: it’s especially NOT specially
  4. Both: it’s correct to use both adverbs in that example, but it’s common to use especially!

The STAR Team

Examples of use from the BBC’s Learn English courses

Duolingo Free App Brings Classrooms Online

Language Learning

Duolingo Free App brings online learning to classrooms

Duolingo Free App for Schoolchildren, Teachers

A new app that has been on the market for over two years will help schoolchildren learn a new language, for free!

In developing countries like Malaysia, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, learning a new language such as English is seen as a ticket out of poverty. Well, at least a certain level of proficiency. The need for English language teachers is unquestionable. However, despite the demand, English teachers in these countries cannot speak English either.

For two developers, and co-founders of the popular app, Duolingo, Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker, believe it could aid language learners where resources are limited.

Duolingo first appeared on the App Store over two and a half years ago and today is holds an estimated 60 million users worldwide. But it’s not just benefiting those where access to good education is a problem; von Ahn sees it as a language educational tool for classrooms the world over.

With this in mind, von Ahn and his colleague Hacker are launching a new platform, ‘Duolingo for Schools’: an app that will enable teachers to track students’ progress and activity, and subsequently tailor lectures and classroom exercises.

“It’s hard to know how many, but we think right now we have a few thousand teachers using Duolingo without this feature. I think this will multiply that by a factor of ten easily,” von Ahn states.

Duolingo’s success is down to an increase in the activity of online learning, and the fact that it’s perceived by many that you can get a quality education for free online; an idea that has gone mainstream as the online learning space swells with newer and better learning apps, and even learning games!

Making money for free!

How does a free app pay the bills? The co-founders developed a business model to help pay for the free service. After a student finishes a lesson in Duolingo, they can test how much they have acquired by translating a piece of text in a news article or the like. With companies like Buzzfeed and CNN who pay Duolingo for these crowdsourced translations, according to von Ahn, it is Duolingo’s millions of students who churn out several hundred articles a day.

With all these advantages, some language academics have cautioned the use of apps like Duolingo, saying it can never replace the teacher, or the textbook, particularly at the university level.

“You can review vocabulary and practice verb forms, but it’s not giving you any cultural context.”

“You can review vocabulary and practice verb forms, but it’s not giving you any cultural context,” says Elise Mueller who’s an academic technology consultant specializing in language teaching and technology at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Whether or not Duolingo was designed for the classroom, teachers started incorporating it into their curriculum and since the original app wasn’t designed for this, teachers have had to make some unconventional workarounds. But ‘Duolingo for Schools’ will change all that.

Do you use Duolingo? If not, would you consider learning a new language through it? Let us know in the comments below.

The STAR Team

Source: Wired

What’s the difference between Spelled and Spelt ?

Difference between spelled and spelt

Difference between spelled and spelt

Difference Between Spelled and Spelt in English

English language tenses are relatively straightforward compared to other European languages. Although some verbs are regular, there are many irregular ones.

Take for instance, the irregular verb “spell“. Its past tense and past participle are both “spelled” and “spelt“. But how do you know which one to use?

Well, both words are interchangeable. You can choose either one!


Spelt has more than one meaning: it’s a hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe and it’s also the past participle of “spell”. In this case, we’re talking about the verb “spell”, which means to form words letter by letter in the correct sequence and to spell something out i.e. ‘He will spell out the problem again.’

It is chiefly British but had been widely used in American English until the early 1900s when “spelled” became more common.


This spelling of the word is both past tense and past participle.

Conjugation of to spell
Base Form Spell
Past Simple Spelled / Spelt
Past Participle Spelled / Spelt
3rd person Singular Spells
Present participle / *Gerund Spelling

*Gerund: a verb which functions as a noun, in English, ending in ‘-ing’ e.g. ‘asking’ in ‘do you mind my asking you?

The STAR Team

Mo-tache-tic: Origins of the Mo and Movember

Mo-STAR, Movember


It’s All About the Bros This Movember

November, known for the no-shave event Movember, when men across the world stop shaving their moustaches, even beards, to raise awareness of men’s health issues. The charity refers to all men involved in the event as Mo Bros!

Movember is a *portmanteau of mo, the diminutive word for moustache, and November. The charity organisation was originally set up in 2004 in New Zealand and Australia. Hence the word mo being an Australian-English word of origin. Since 2007, events were launched in Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ireland, Israel, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, the UK and the United States.

Etymology of the Tache

It can be spelt mostache or Moustache in both British and American English. “Moustache” first appeared in French in the early 1580s and possibly derived from the Italian word mostaccio or the Medieval Greek, moustakion.

In ancient Greek, mastax or mystax meant jaws; mouth while the genitive, mystakos meant upper lip. As a verb, mastax literal meaning was, “that which one chews.” Some linguists have traced these words back to the PIE root mendh-, to chew.

*Portmanteau [as a modifier]: Consisting of or combining two or more aspects or qualities.

For more information on Movember and the charities involved, visit:

The STAR Team
Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary; Wikipedia

ICYMI: A Slew of New Words Enter English

New words enter English

New English words enter Oxford English Dictionary

New Words Enter English, Oxford English Dictionary

This year sees a slew of  “cray” words being entered into the Oxford English Dictionary. You may have heard or read them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Oxford University Press

The Oxford University Press has one of the largest language research programmes in the world. Their most important resources are the Oxford English Corpus and the Reading Programme.  Their Corpus consists of large documents sourced from the World Wide Web, while the Reading Programme is electronic and gathers information from a collection of sentences, song lyrics, extracts taken from a variety of literary fiction and non-fiction and also scientific journals.

International Community

It is held together by the contribution of an international network of readers who sift through these sources on the lookout for new words, their meanings and other language changes. The Reader research is all put forward for the Oxford English Dictionary.

New Word Sources

Many words that have made frequent contribution to the OED come from online communication, i.e. social media and internet slang, pop culture, film and literature, and even new ones typically churned out by tech-savvy reviewers. If there is sufficient evidence to back up a word’s prolonged usage [a new word used by more than one writer] then the Readers at OED investigate to give a clear definition and origin of this word. Once a word has been selected, it becomes a candidate for inclusion into the OED.

It’s all part of keeping the English language modern and alive.

We have always been interested in new words in the Oxford English Dictionary, as we’ve used a number of them in our blogs and social media posts.

We’ve put together the latest collection of new words that found a home in the OED:

New Word Definition New Word Definition
acquihire the instance of hiring a company to acquire the skills & expertise of its staff hot mess a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered
adorbs arousing great delight; cute & adorable hot mic a microphone that is turned on, in particular, one that amplifies or broadcasts a spoken remark that was intended to be private
air punch the act of thrusting one’s fist into the air, typically as a gesture of victory humblebrag an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud
amazeballs impressive; extremely good or amazing hyperconnected characterized by the widespread or habitual use of devices that have Internet connectivity
anti-vax opposed to vaccination e.g. ‘anti-vax parents’ ICYMI abbreviation: In case you missed it (used in electronic communication to draw attention to something noteworthy)
baller extremely good, impressive or excellent in silico (of scientific experiments or research) conducted or produced by means of computer modelling or computer simulation
bare very or rarely: used as an intensifier e.g. that boy’s bare bold listicle an article on the Internet presented in the form of a numbered or bullet-pointed list
bedroom tax (Welfare Act in the UK) amount of housing benefit paid to a claimant is reduced if the property they are renting is judged to have more bedrooms than necessary live-tweet to post comments about (an event) on Twitter while the event is taking place
binge-watch watching multiple episodes or films in rapid succession mansplain (of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing
brick cause (a smartphone or the like) to become completely unable to function on a permanent basis nailed on constituting a certainty; guaranteed to happen or definitely the case
bro-hug [another term for man hug] a friendly embrace between two men neckbeard a growth of hair on a man’s neck, especially when regarded as indicative of poor grooming
catfish to lure someone into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona olinguito a small nocturnal tree-dwelling mammal living in cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador; first described in 2013, it is the smallest member of the raccoon family
clickbait (on the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular Web page pharmacovigilance the practice of monitoring the effects of medical drugs after they have been licensed for use, especially in order to identify and evaluate previously unreported adverse reactions
cord cutter a person who cancels a television subscription or landline phone connection in favour of an alternative Internet-based or wireless service pogonophobia extreme dislike of beards
cotch to spend time relaxing side boob side part of a woman’s breast, as exposed by a revealing item of clothing
cray short for ‘crazy’ side-eye a sidelong glance expressing disapproval or contempt
doncha short for’ don’t you’ SMH shaking (or shake) my head (used in e-communication to express disapproval, exasperation, frustration, etc.)
douchebaggery obnoxious or contemptible behaviour spit take (especially as a comic technique) an act of suddenly spitting out liquid one is drinking in response to something funny or surprising
dox / doxx to search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent subtweet (on Twitter) a post that refers to a particular user without directly mentioning them, typically as a form of furtive mockery or criticism
e-cig another term for electronic cigarette trackback an automatic notification sent when a link has been created to a person’s blog post from an external website, allowing a reciprocal link to that website to be created
fandom fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture trigger warning a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material
FML F**k my life! (used to express dismay at a frustrating or irritating personal situation) vape inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device
fratty characteristics or a student fraternity or its members vax a vaccine or vaccination
hench (of a man) being strong, fit, and having well-developed muscles WDYT abbreviation: What do you think? (used in electronic communication)
hexacopter an unmanned helicopter having six rotors YOLO abbreviation: You only live once (expressing the view that one should make the most of the present moment without worrying about the future, and often used as a rationale for impulsive or reckless behaviour)
hot diggity used to express excitement or delight at a situation zonkey the hybrid offspring of a donkey and a zebra


The majority of them are pretty new to us too. Let us know what you think of them. Do you use any in your vocabulary?

The STAR Team

Clichés By The Book

Clichés, a sign of the times

Clichés: Give It To Me Straight!

A cliché (also cliche) is an expression, idea, opinion or phrase that was once considered an original metaphor, but over time became overused and unoriginal. They were used to convey a novel approach or, to some effect, explain an artistic element.

An English playwright named John Heywood, wrote a book in the 1500s: the book of proverbs, which catalogued clichés and figures of speech common at the time. These were considered original, witty and informative. Today, however, they’re tired and unwitty, but we use them nonetheless.

Clichés can often be confused with idioms (special phrasing), hyperbole (exaggerated rhetoric), metaphors (figures of speech) and similes (expressing comparison, likeness).

Nowadays, we call these overused, ready-made phrases clichés!

You’re probably trying to remember some tired clichés — the ones your  mother used regularly — explaining the repetition of daily chores, perhaps.


  • Better late than never
  • Tried and true
  • Fit as a fiddle
  • Weak as a kitten
  • A bun in the oven
  • Dead ringer
  • A no-brainer!
  • Labour of love


  • It’s not rocket science
  • He was pulling my leg
  • Let’s keep an eye out for her
  • The cat’s out of the bag now!
  • He threw himself at her feet!


  • Waste not, want not
  • Break a leg
  • The early bird catches the worm
  • Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise


  • The computers at work are old dinosaurs
  • She cut him down with her words
  • Waves of messages of hope were sent to the victims
  • He lay there, soaking up the sun

All the above examples may paint a clearer picture for you, but what’s the purpose of a cliché and how did they come to be?

We already know that a cliché is a phrase to express an idea. They’re also traditional in form which, due to their repetitive use in social life, have a heuristic power i.e. enabling others to learn. It has been stated among certain sociologists that clichés manage to stimulate behaviour without reflection on their meanings. To some degree, they are automated phrases used to aid understanding. A cliché can spark further cognition, emotion, volition and action.


Cliché was pulled from the French language around the mid 19th century. A cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. It’s a past participle of clicher, to stereotype. In the early stages of printing movable type, letters were placed one at a time as it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly. The word cliché came to mean such a ready-made phrase.

The STAR Team
Sources: Wikipedia; Oxford English Dictionary; Literary Devices

Capitalise That, Capitalisation!

Capitalisation in English

Capitalise that, Capitalisation in English

Let’s face it, it can be a tad confusing when it comes to whether a word receives a capital first letter or not. However, there is a general rule of thumb to consider if the first letter of a word is to be capitalised: uniqueness! That is, for instance, if you have word such as Web (short for the World Wide Wide), then Web receives a capital W. There’s only one Web.

Just allowing uniqueness as a prerequisite to capitalisation doesn’t seem correct, though. You have probably seen many words with capital first letters without any of them being distinctive. Here are the top four rules to adhere to to know when to capitalise:

  • At the beginning of a sentence
    • As with all western languages, the first letter of the first word in a sentence typically starts with a capital letter
  • People, places and other related words
    • People’s names tend to be unique even though many people can share the same name
    • E.g. “Matthew had travelled the world in search of fine foods. He found Indian food most pleasurable
  • Titles of books, magazines, films, organisations, special days etc
    • Use a capital first letter when writing / typing the titles / names of organisations, plays, films, holidays, books, publications and so on. However, do not capitalise connecting words such as a, an, the, of, in et cetera — only the main words
    • E.g. Smithsonian Institution
    • E.g. The Cabin in the Woods
  • Every first letter of an abbreviated word should be a capital
    • EEA (European Economic Area)
    • IAU (International Astronomical Union)
    • MEP (a Member of the European Parliament)
Words that receive a capital first letter
Unique Word Related Word
Cambodia Cambodian
Dada Dadaism
Pantagruel Pantagruelian
Europe European

Remember to use capital first letters in formal writing. It’s easy to forget nowadays since email and text messaging encourages the use of informal writing.

The STAR Team

The Untranslatables

The Untranslatables

The Untranslatables

Untranslatables: No English Equivalent

There are many words in the English language that were borrowed from other languages such as Latin, French, German, Spanish and so on. They are called loanwords and exhibit little or no modification at all. Although, there are many words that the English language could do with adding…

Languages are fascinating to study and there is always something new and exciting to learn about them. We have been looking at a wide array of languages and words that do not appear in a modern English dictionary.

Without further ado, we bring you a list of foreign language words for which English has no direct translation.

Language Codes Words / Phrases English Meanings
JPN Komorebi That scattered, dapple light effect that occurs when sunlight pierces the tops of trees
DEU Backpfeifengesicht A face badly in need of a fist
GEO / KAT Shemomedjamo [Lit.: I accidentally ate the whole thing]
DEU Packesel A person who carries everybody else’s luggage / bags [Lit.: Burrow]
SVE Lagom Used to describe something that is not too much or too little — just right — nicely balanced
TGL / FLIP Gigil An urge to pinch something irresistibly cute
HAW Pana Po’o The act of scratching one’s head to remind them of something they have forgotten
ITA Slampadato Addicted to tanning
NOR Pålegg All the ingredients (anything) that is put into a sandwich
ARA Ya’arburnee [Lit.: May you bury me] Asked of a loved one, so that they may not go through the hardship of being alone or dying before the other
RUS Pochemuchka A person who asks too many questions
PER Zhaghzhagh The sound one makes when they grind their teeth from either the cold or when they are angry (onomatopoeic)
DEU Neidbau A small house or shack built to annoy or frustrate one’s neighbour(s)
CZE Vybafnout The act of jumping out at someone and saying boo
JPN Aware The bittersweetness of a brief and fading moment of transcendent beauty
AKA Pelinti [Lit.: To move hot food around in the mouth] The moment you put too much hot food in your mouth, tilt your head back and move it around to cool it down
IND Mencolek To descibe having someone under one’s arm and on the opposite shoulder
CZE Prozvonit The act of calling a person’s mobile phone only to ring once, so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller their minutes / credit
SMO Faamiti The act of making a kissy sound to attract the attention or a dog or baby
IKU Iktsuarpok The act of continuously checking one’s front door to see if the people one’s awaiting have arrived yet
SSE Tartle The moment when one pauses in hesitation before they introduce someone else — forgetting the person’s name
YAG Mamihlapinatapai The act of two people looking at one another and wishing the other would do something that both want, but neither want to do
THA Greng-jai The feeling one gets when one doesn’t want the other to help because it will be a burden on them
FRA Seigneur-terraces Term for people who sit at cafés all the time and don’t buy anything
ULW Yuputka The feeling that something is crawling on one’s skin when walking through the woods
DAN Hygge The feeling to describe sitting around a campfire with friends during the wintertime
DAN Kaelling A woman who never stops nagging or yelling, especially in public places
DEU Kummerspeck [Lit.: Grief bacon] A name for the weight gained after an extended period of emotional overeating

Some of these words and their subsequent meanings aren’t anything new to us. We have all experienced something like their meanings before; we just didn’t have a specific word for them.

FYI: The word untranslatables does not exist in English. Untranslatable is an adjective, not a noun.

Know any other words without a direct English translation? Let us know…

The STAR Team

Typoglycaemia: Word Recognition


Typoglycaemia: Wrod Rgocintoien

In September 2003, an meme surfaced on the Internet stating:

“I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rseearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Scuh a cdonition is arppoiatrely cllaed Typoglycaemia .

“Amzanig huh? Yaeh and you awlyas thguoht slpeling was ipmorantt.”

Fact from Fiction

Not so much a research study, but based on one man’s PhD thesis that was finalised in 1976. A man named Graham Rawlinson. His work was never published: The Significance of Letter Position in Word Recognition, Nottingham University.

There was little evidence to support the main factors of word recognition and the cognitive processes behind reading written text, but roughly three dozen studies were carried out on both adults and children. It is obvious to some that we read words as a whole rather than reading letter by letter, in one’s native language, of course. Although, it has been stated, to some degree, that when one reads in a foreign language, they tend to read every letter.


Typoglycaemia (or typoglycemia) is what’s known as a neologism, a name for a newly coined word, term, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use but, that has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Typoglycaemia is a portmanteau of two separate words: typo, typographical error and hypoglycaemia, a state of severely diminished content of glucose in the blood. We didn’t that make that up!

You can find Mr. Rawlinson’s summary of notes on his thesis on the Cambridge Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit website

The STAR Team