Word list: P

pandemic, global

See global pandemic.


Hyphenated, and with capital E.


One word.

peddle, pedal

Sometimes confused. You can pedal a bicycle. Peddle means to try to sell [something, especially small goods] by going from place to place. Or, figuratively, to promote [an idea or view] persistently or widely. You can’t pedal an idea; you can only peddle it.

peek, peak

Sometimes confused. When you [take a] peek at something, that means you look at it, perhaps furtively. A peak is the top of a mountain, or the high point of something, or the part of a cap that keeps the sun out of your eyes.


A pensioner is a person who receives a pension, especially a retirement pension. Usually it’s older people; but some young people draw pensions and some old people don’t. Avoid using pensioner / pensioners to mean old person / people. Instead, say “older people” or “elderly people” or “over-70s” or whatever you actually mean.

per cent

Two words. In running text write the words per cent in preference to the percentage sign %.

phase, faze

See faze, phase.


In the sense of a software add-on, plugin is one word with no hyphen.

pole position

Not “poll position”.


One word.

portent, portent

  • A portent (noun) is a sign, omen, or warning.
  • Portend (verb) means to be a sign, omen, or warning.

There is no such thing as “a portend”.


One word.


One word.


Cap P, lower case I.


The Microsoft Office application has a capital P partway through. There is no plural form: you can’t say PowerPoints; instead, write PowerPoint slides or PowerPoint presentations or whatever.

practice, practise

Practice is the noun; practise is the verb.

  • Effective local procurement practices can contribute to job creation.
  • We practise what we preach.

predetermine, predetermined

Not hyphenated.

premier, premiere

Sometimes confused.

  • Premier is an adjective meaning first in status or top quality or a noun meaning prime minister.
  • Preimere refers to the first public showing or a play or movie.

Both words come from the French premier/première.

preselect, preselected

Not hyphenated.


You can take pride in something or you can pride yourself on it. You don’t pride yourself in a thing.

principal, principle

Commonly confused. Principal (adjective or noun) means main or first in importance; principle (noun) means the foundation of a belief or behaviour, or a standard of conduct.

  • Honest reporting is a matter of principle.
  • Integrity is our principal concern.


No hyphen.

profit and loss

Not profit & loss.

program, programme

Program refers only to a computer program in UK English. For a scheme or schedule it’s programme – unless the word Program forms part of a US-English proper noun, in which case we follow the US spelling.

pro rata

Not hyphenated, even when used adjectivally.

protester, protestor

Use the –er spelling rather than the –or spelling.

proved, proven

Proved is the past tense and past participle; proven is usually used only as an adjective.

  • It’s a proven fact.
  • She has proved her critics wrong.

purposely, purposefully

These two words have overlapping meanings but they’re not fully interchangeable. You can do something purposely without necessarily doing it purposefully.

  • Purposely means intentionally, or on purpose.
  • Purposefully means in a way that shows determination or resolve, or with a useful purpose.