Word list: B

bachelor’s [degree]

Takes apostrophe-s and is not capitalised.

back end, back-end

Two separate words as a noun; hyphenated as an adjective. Your back‑end database is at the back end.

back up, backup

One word when used as a noun or adjective; two words as a verb. When you back up your data, you make a backup.

bacteria, bacterium

There is no such thing as “a bacteria”. Bacteria is the plural of bacterium.


One word.


It’s between… and – not between… to, nor between… or.

The following sentences are incorrect:

  • Delegates can arrive at any time between 9:00am to 10:00am.
    Make it between… and or from… to.
  • You have a choice between cheese or dessert.
    Make it of… or or between… and.

biannual, biennial

  • Biannual means twice a year.
  • Biennial means once every two years.

Many readers will not know, or will struggle to remember, which is which; so consider writing “twice a year / six-monthly” or “once every two years / two-yearly” for ease and speed of understanding.


Single S.

bible, Bible

Not capitalised when used in an everyday sense such as “the fashion industry bible”. Capital B for the Holy Bible or if it’s the name of a publication.


Not capitalised.


1,000 million.

blond, blonde

You can’t have blonde hair. Hair can only be blond. The feminine form blonde is a noun or adjective describing a woman or girl whose hair is blond.

born, borne

Born and borne are both past participles of the verb bear and they’re easy to muddle.

  • Born refers to bearing in the sense of giving birth, literally or metaphorically. So you could say “I was born in London” or you could say that something was “born of necessity”.
  • Borne usually refers to  bearing in the sense of carrying, literally or metaphorically. So you can have “airborne contaminants” for example. Or if you think someone’s going to make a good job of something and then it turns out they do make a good job of it, you might say that your confidence in them was “borne out” by their performance.

People sometimes write “borne out of” or “borne of” incorrectly when they really mean “born (out) of”, For example, “The shift to remote working is borne out of Covid restrictions.” Here it’s not borne. It’s born.

both… alike

One or the other:

  • The policy applies to both staff and contractors.
  • The policy applies to staff and contractors alike.

But don’t use both words together:

  • The policy applies to both staff and contractors alike.


In the context of responsive web design – one word.


Noun: buyback; verb: buy back.


Noun: buyout; verb: buy out.