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

What is the difference between dialect and accent?

Difference between dialect and accent

Dialects and accent / Stock photo

Difference between dialect and accent

Dialects and accents are two things people tend to confuse. They’re not interchangeable and quite different. Dialects can involve localized words and different expressions while accents are purely pronunciation and sound.


A dialect is a particular way of talking that is intrinsic to a town or a part of a country and it involves the use of distinctive patterns, grammar and vocabulary. A person’s use of particular words and phrases can be an interesting way of finding out or inquisitively testing one’s knowledge of where they might come from.

An example of the use of different types of vocabulary would be how the Scottish say wee and bonny instead of little and pretty, respectively. Another example of how the Scottish dialect affects English grammar would be in their vocabulary; one such example of this is when they say, I dinna ken instead of I don’t know.


Accents are only concerned with pronunciation and not with vocabulary or grammar. The most important aspect of an accent is the particular sound used to create it.

There are common points between dialects and accents, in fact, both can tell us from which part of a country a person comes. However, they can change over time due to similar cultural connections and influences. A person’s accent and dialect really depends on where that person lives, and to whom they have spent time talking.

For instance, Scottish people have a distinct accent when they speak English, one of their native languages. Although they also have a dialect using variants of English words to mean other things. The same can be said for Australian people.

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What is the difference between photo and picture?

Difference between photo and picture

Difference between photo and picture / Stock photo

Difference between photo and picture

To most people, the words photo and picture are interchangeable. But are they really? Let’s examine the two words and give a clearer definition of them.


A photo, or a photograph, can only be used when it has been produced by using a camera. It is a very restricted term, so you have to be careful when you want to use it.


The word picture has a less restricted use on it, which is in fact a very common term with multiple meanings. We can use this one for a lot of things like a drawing, a painting, a cinema film, a portrait or, a photograph too.

If one refers to a photograph as a picture, the object itself is probably a combination of a photo with text or graphics rendered on it. Picture can be employed in special cases like something produced in your mind; an impression one has of somebody or something described to them; or from your memory.

Another related word is image. This word is a more generalised one. An image can be a visible impression obtained by any device such as a computer, telescope, camera, video screen et cetera. It can also refer to a representation of an external form of a person or thing among other meanings.

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What’s the difference between coat and jacket?

Difference between coat and jacket

Coat or jacket? / Stock photo

Difference between coat and jacket

We often mix our use of the words coat and jacket. But what’s the actual difference between coat and jacket?

The Coat

A coat is a typically a long piece of clothing that is worn over other clothes. It usually keeps the wearer warm and protects them from the cold during the winter months.

There are several kind of coats like the duffel coat, a reefer coat or an oilskin coat; however, there’s also a reefer jacket and a duffel jacket.

The Jacket

A jacket for its part, covers only the upper body. It’s worn over clothes, but doesn’t necessarily protect you from the cold. People wear jackets for stylish purposes only.

Jackets are typically lighter than a coat and can belong to a set of clothes like a suit (i.e. a suit jacket), worn with a skirt for women or trousers for men.

They are really easy terms to confuse though. The specific differences are length and weight and whether they protect you from the cold or not.

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What is the difference between a ship and a boat?

Difference between a ship and a boat

Is it a ship or a boat? / Stock photo

Difference between a ship and a boat

A boat is a human construct that can float and traverse on water.

A boat serves a need for sea, or inland waterway transport and supports various activities such as the transport of persons / goods; war at sea; fishing; boating and other services such as the safety of other boats.

A ship is a strong boat designed for navigation at sea and carrying tonnage, that is to say, when it is scheduled to navigate beyond the limit at which technical safety regulations for inland navigation cease to apply.

There are several types of ships including cargo ships such as oil ships and military ships (e.g. aircraft carriers).

We can say that these two words are very often misused. From a general point of view, the word boat is colloquial and the word ship is more formal. But we often speak of the same thing and intermix the use of both words.

A clear difference between the two is that a ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship.

An exception to this rule of thumb is that ferries are not regarded as ships but as boats; however, cruise ships that look and probably have the same weight are ships.

What do you think, is the photo above a ship or a boat?

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What is the difference between hill and mountain?

What is the difference between hill and mountain?

Hill or mountain? / Stock photo

Difference between hill and mountain

When it comes to the English language, certain words are often confused as the difference between them is hard to define. A great example of this is the difference between a hill and a mountain. Let’s explore the two terms closely.

A Hill

A hill is a moderate and low-lying relief that rises above a plain or plateau, it differs from the landscape. A hill can be isolated. There are also field hills. Some hills have a flat slope and we could call them small mountains, but that definition would seem subjective.

A Mountain

A mountain is a high and extended relief. One or more mountains are usually placed in a specific ecosystem and we talk about mountainous regions to define them. They also have a steep slope whereas a hill has a gradual declination.

The Difference

The difference can be defined by the height but the limit isn’t really fixed. In the UK, we talk about a mountain when it is greater than 600m (or 1,969 feet). However, we often confuse these two terms, although subjectively. In simple terms, a mountain has an identifiable summit, while a hill is more rounded.

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Most Misused Word Officially Changed Definition

Pages of an open dictionary, most misused word in English

Most Misused Word, Literally Changes

Not really, but the redefinition of the word literally leaves it in a rather awkward state. Perhaps it is a word best avoided for the moment!

The most misused word in the language has officially changed definition, literally! Some dictionaries have added its other more recent usage alongside its original one: in a literal manner or sense; exactly‘.

The driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle.

Google defines its new meaning as, can be used “to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling.

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Source: Martha Gill, The Guardian

What is the difference between duty and responsibility?

Meanings: difference between duty and responsibility in English
What’s the difference between duty and responsibility? / STAR Translation Imaging

Meanings: Difference between Duty and Responsibility


The word duty comes from the Latin word ‘debere’, meaning obligation; to call to do something.

Therefore, the word duty is what we have to do according to the law, conventions or moral rules. Duty can be distinguished according to the law and regulations, but it also has personal connotations based on one’s values, too.

A sense of duty is to obey political, legal and moral rules set out by an organization.


Responsibility is often misused. It is not interchangeable with the word duty. Responsibility originates from the Latin word ‘respondere’, meaning to vouch; respond to something.

It defines the state of being responsible (morally accountable or having an obligation to do something): it involves decision-making and comes with one having certain duties.

Responsibility comes in two parts: it can be given to you, but you also have to take responsibility by accepting the role or task assigned to you.

How do you differentiate between duty and responsibility?

The STAR Team

Middle East Translation - Free Whitepaper

English in sport : It’s Part of the Rules !

football rules

As we’ve been looking at English so much over the last few weeks we decided today to look at English in sport.

During any sporting event, you will find that a lot of the athletes and players will actually speak English. Like football for example, most players speak English (especially sports vocabulary). Nowadays, English is international language and also in sport.

During Roland Garros, in France, the Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal conducted his interviews and his final speech in English. Quite often if there are teams in sport from different countries, referees will speak English. For that, players have to know this language to understand the day to day rules.

European universities who teach sports, like STAPS in France, provide English courses every week. Now, its a pre-requisite to speak English in all sectors, and in sports to allow matches and games to unfold properly.

In rugby, for example, except for national championships, there are special words for the Scrum that players have to know to execute well. Referees say: “Crouch, Touch, Set!”. This is not the really same translation in other languages, so they have to learn the exact word for each action.

So its a credit to all international sports people. They excel at their sport but they also have to develop other skills (like English) to improve them!

British and American word differences

British and American word differences

British and American flags respectively / Stock photo

British and American word differences

In the last few weeks, we’ve spoken about English accents, like the Irish accent or the Australian accent. But accents aside, there are a number of differences between English words according to where you live. The two most notable ones are British English and US English.

Depending whether you were born in the UK or the USA meant that you learned a different type of English, in terms of spelling and grammar.

For example, if you’re American and you decide to use a British cookbook, it’s not often easy to understand all the words for different foods.

Aubergine in British English is Eggplant in American English. You even have to deal with cups and ounces as opposed to the easier metric system of kilograms and grams. It’s typical to read a “cup of flour” in a US cookbook, but people in the UK are confused by that kind of terminology. What is a cup? There are so many different cup sizes. What’s it based on? Well, I’ll leave that for another post…

A cup is exactly 236.6g

Take the prepositions, to and for, that have subtle usage differences in both the UK and the USA. Also, we find little differences in spelling with two letters in particular: S and Z; for example, recognize in British English and recognise in US English.

Most of the time foreign students learn both variants of English (as we’ll call them that for now) to acquire the maximum vocabulary benefit no matter where they are in the world. Although at times it’s difficult to identify these subtleties in the English language.

Below is a non-exhaustive table of British English (and Irish English) words and their American English equivalents.

British English US English
Baggage reclaim Baggage claim
Bonnet Hood
Botanic garden Botanical garden
Colour Color
Conserves Preserves
Drink driving Drunk driving
Dumper truck Dump truck
Flat Apartment
Holiday Vacation
Licence License
Defence Defense
Mobile Cell
Porridge Cooked oatmeal
Pyjamas Pajamas
To rent For rent
Underground or Tube Subway

Find other examples of US / UK English through the links below.

The STAR Team

Proofreading test, the answer

English proofreading test, the answer – classroom board

English proofreading test, the answer is below.

English proofreading test, the answer

A little proofreading test for you to figure out today.

This sentense has two mistakes.

What are the mistakes? Try to figure it out before you view the answer below.

The Answer

Have you worked it out yet?

There are two mistakes; however, it’s a bit of a trick question and an important exercise to demonstrate the skills required of professional proofreaders.

  1. Everyone gets the first mistake: the word sentence is spelt incorrectly. Proofreaders are trained to spot mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation etc.
  2. The second mistake is that the sentence only has one spelling mistake. It should say, ‘this sentense has one mistake‘.

This highlights the proofreaders other skills, that of checking context, content and the correctness of sentences, paragraphs etc. Does the sentence state what it’s supposed to say and is the context correct?

Often during translation, the actual content of the string isn’t checked. All the words are correct, but the sentence might be written incorrectly in English or translated incorrectly.

On a separate note, it’s worth noting that we often find mistakes (both spelling mistakes and syntax errors) in the English documents we’re sent for translation. Good translators will be checking the texts they work on for mistakes and potential mistranslations such as those previously outlined.

The next time you look at authoring, translation or proofreading, remember to check the easy stuff (i.e. spelling) and the harder part (i.e. syntax and grammar).

We hope you enjoyed it. Try another proofreading test.

The STAR Team