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Technique and technology

The words technique and technology are related to each other, but it is important to understand the difference between them.

TECHNIQUE

Technique refers to how you carry out a particular task, an efficient way of achieving something or the skill needed to do so. In order to swim fast, for example, you need a good technique. The corresponding adjective is technical.

Technique

TECHNOLOGY

Technology is applied science, the use of scientific knowledge and methods to accomplish a task. Technology is used to improve products and services. The corresponding adjective is technological.

Technology

To sum up, technology gives us the tools and technique determines how the tools are used.

Biannual and biennial

What’s the difference between biannual and biennial?

The two words biannual and biennial are easily confused.

Both come from Latin bi-, twice, and annus, year.

Biannual means occurring twice a year, and biennial means occurring every second year – think of the Venice Biennial (in Italian la Biennale di Venezia).

Perhaps you polish your car or clear out your garage twice every year – then that is a biannual activity. If you go to a conference that is held every two years, you attend a biennial conference.

Biennial can also refer to a plant that blooms or bears fruit in its second year and then dies.

Instead of biannual, you can write semiannual; both words refer to something happening twice a year or every half year.

Biweekly and bimonthly don’t have this distinction – there is no vowel as in annus that could show the difference. Biweekly could mean both twice a week and once every second week. A bimonthly magazine could be one that is published twice a month or every two months. As a writer, you need to make it clear what you intend to say.

A view from San Marco in Venice towards the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute with birds flying against a sunset. The image refers to the Biennial of Venice to illustrate the difference between biannual and biennial.
The Venice Biennial is one of the most prestigious cultural festivals in the world

Connect to or connect with?

There is a difference between connect to and connect with.

CONNECT TO

Use connect to when you talk about a physical link between one object and another.

Make sure the printer is connected to your computer.
My Wi-Fi works but I’m not connected to the internet.

CONNECT WITH

Use connect with when you talk about a relationship, a non-physical link.

These are typical symptoms connected with appendicitis.
He immediately connected with his therapist.
She is extremely good at connecting with her audience.

This, of course, also applies to the noun connection.

A man is being heard by the police in connection with a burglary last night.

A speaker in front of his audience of students. The image illustrates the difference between connect to and connect with.
He is extremely good at connecting with his audience

Practice or practise?

Should you write practice or practise?

PRACTICE

In British and American English, practice is a noun with the following meanings:

1. custom, method, tradition, habit
–Practice is the process of doing something as opposed to theory

2. exercise, work-out
–Practice is the repeated exercise to acquire a skill

3. profession, work, career, occupation
–I was looking for a text-book on the practice of medicine

4. business, company, office, firm
–She works in a small legal practice

5. use, operation, application
–The nurse encouraged the practice of safe sex

In American English, practice is also a verb, corresponding to practise in British English.

PRACTISE

In British English, practise is a verb related to the nouns presented above.

Consequently, it can mean repeat, rehearse; do, work out; apply, carry out, perform; specialise in, work at.

As you see, American English has only the spelling practice for both the noun and the verb.

In British English, you can write To practise every day is good practice

A young girl is practising playing the flute in a living-room. The purpose of the image is to illustrate the difference between practice and practise.
To practise every day is good practice

Read more about the endings -ice and -ise here.

In and within

The words in and within often cause confusion. Some writers use the word within in places where it is inappropriate or wrong. I once saw an advert from a university that was inviting applications for the position of Professor within Economics. If you know that within often can be replaced by inside, it is clear that the ad looked slightly ridiculous.

In my job as copyeditor of scientific texts, I see within more often than I would like. Perhaps those who write within may think the word makes a text more scholarly. As you can see from the example above, within may look ludicrous.

IN

In is used about place or time:

He was in the kitchen.
My daughter lives in Italy.
This happened in late September.
See you in a minute. 
I haven’t felt this happy in years. 

WITHIN

Within often means inside a certain area, according to particular limits or rules, or during a certain period of time:

An angry voice was heard from within.
After she had left, I had a warm feeling within me.
Don’t place this medicine within the reach of children!
Delivery is free of charge within a thirty-kilometre limit.
From your hotel, the picturesque gardens are within easy reach.
I am not sure we can do this within budget.
Within minutes of arriving at the railway station, I heard a loud voice calling my name.
They had had three burglaries within six months.

A little girl is stretching to reach an apple hanging from a tree. The image illustrates the use of in and within.
Just within reach

IN AN HOUR OR WITHIN AN HOUR?

I’ll be back in an hour means that I ’ll be back in about one hour, perhaps fifty, sixty, or seventy minutes from now.

I’ll be back within an hour means that I’ll be back at any time before an hour has passed but in one hour at the latest.

I hope this has helped you understand the difference between in and within.

At the beginning or in the beginning?

The phrases at the beginning and in the beginning seem to mean the same thing, but there is a difference.

AT THE BEGINNING

At the beginning refers to a point in time, an instant, a specific time (or place) to describe the start of something. It is often followed by of.

At the beginning of his lecture, the speaker put an apple on the lectern.
The national anthems of the two teams were played at the beginning of the match.

A physician and a nurse performing surgery on a foot. The image is meant to illustrate the the difference between the phrases 'at the beginning' and 'in the beginning'.
At the beginning I thought there would be a lot more blood.

IN THE BEGINNING

The phrase in the beginning refers to a period of time:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

The phrase is often used to contrast two situations in time:

In the beginning, I couldn’t understand what he meant, but when he showed a diagram, things got clearer.

And, since we have come to the end of this post, let me remind you that you can read about at the end and in the end here.

The difference between isolated and insulated

Isolated and insulated both come from Latin insula, island.

The Latin word insulatus, made into an island, became isolato in Italian and both insulated and isolated in English.

The two English words have different meanings:

ISOLATED

Isolated means separated or set apart from others. You can be in a remote place without contact with anybody. Even with a lot of people around you at a party, you can feel isolated when you feel as if nobody notices you or makes contact with you.

You can also isolate something, identify,  for example, a problem, in order to deal with it.

And scientists can isolate a virus from an infected host.

INSULATED

Insulated is used to indicate that something is covered or wrapped in a material that protects from loss of heat, an electric shock, etc.

Without being isolated, children that grow up with overprotective parents may be insulated against and unprepared for the harsh realities of life.

Insulated electrical cables sticking out of a wall. The image is used to illustrate a post about the difference between insulated and isolated
Insulated cables

If or whether?

If and whether are sometimes interchangeable but they 
have different uses.

You can use both if and whether in indirect questions:

She asked if I wanted tea or coffee.
She asked whether I wanted tea or coffee.

Whether is used in more formal contexts.

This is the main difference between if and whether:

IF

Use if where a condition is involved:

If it doesn’t rain tomorrow, we’ll play golf.
I’d be grateful if you could pick me up at the railway station.

WHETHER

Use whether in reference to alternatives or a choice:

We discussed whether we should walk or take a taxi.

Use whether before an infinitive:

I’ve been wondering whether to let him use the car again.

Use whether after a preposition:

They talked about whether it was a mistake.

A lone woman is sitting on a grassy beach by a large lake.
She debated with herself whether to take a swim or go for a walk

To understand the difference between if and whether, look at these two examples:

1. Let me know if you got his letter.

If you got his letter, tell me so, but only if you got it. You don’t have to tell me if you did not get his letter.

2. Let me know whether you got his letter.

No matter whether you got his letter or not, please tell me.

What’s the difference between different and various?

In my job as copyeditor I notice that writers tend to overuse different when they should write various instead.

Different, as you know, means that something is not the same as something else. One thing is different from another thing, or two or more things are different, not alike.

A young man and a middle-aged man wearing different models of sunglasses. The image illustrates the difference between different and various.
They have different models of sunglasses

Various implies that there is a variety among things; there are several different variants of something. Various is used before a plural noun about things that are of the same type but not all of exactly the same kind.

A display of various models and colours of sunglasses. The image illustrates the difference between different and various.
Various models and colours of sunglasses

Usually, the preposition from comes after different: Her latest novel is very different from anything she has written before. However, some writers prefer than after different. I would use than only with the comparative form: These two are more different than those.  Different than is common in US English. Sometimes I also see different to, which seems to be more common in British English, but you should avoid using different to in writing.

I recommend that you write different when you want to emphasise that there really is a difference. And write from instead of than or to! Write various to indicate that there are several types that are different from each other, that there is a variety of things.

Experience or experiences?

It may be difficult to understand the difference between experience and experiences.

Experience has two meanings. The first is something that has happened to you. You might say, I had a strange experience on my way to work this morning.

This experience can take the plural form, experiences:

He talked about his bad experiences with cheap hotels.
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you about my experiences in the Himalayas.

The other meaning of experience is what you have learnt from studies or work or from familiarity with something. This is what you would write in your CV. Experience in this case is an uncountable noun; it cannot be used in the plural.

You must have at least five years of teaching experience.
In my experience, this is a very good car.

Man typing on a computer keyboard. The screen shows two documents. The image illustrates the use of the word experience as opposed to experiences.
Experience of computing is always valued

Experience can also be a verb:

She experienced a sense of being valued for her brains and not only for her beauty.

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