CS Sealey

Sydney-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between proved and proven

TLDR: Both can be used almost interchangeably.

Sometimes, in English, there are words that sprout not just one past participle but two. You may learn one, your friend may learn the other and, at some point, you’ll have an argument about which is correct.

However, annoyingly… both can be correct.

prove (verb)—to show the truth through evidence or argument

The detectives had to prove the man was guilty.

’I will prove to you that I’m not lying!’ he shouted.

With regards to whether proved or proven is more correct, however, the two words can be used more or less interchangeably. For instance:

’It has not yet been proved that Mr Smith is the murderer.’

’It has not yet been proven that Mr Smith is the murderer.’

Yet, of course, there are exceptions and nuances with language. The word proven is more widely used throughout American English use, whereas proved is more dominant in British English. The exception in British English is that, proven is always used as an adjective positioned immediately before a noun. For example:

The potion was a proven remedy.

As opposed to:

The potion was a proved remedy.

The difference between tactics and strategy

TLDR: Good tactics win the day, but a good strategy will see the overall campaign succeed.

As a writer of fantasy, there comes the inevitable time where forces collide and a war breaks out. Soldiers vie for space in close-quarters melee, cavalry make sweeps across the battlefield and archers rain down hell from above. The general is either in the thick of it all, leading from the front, or sitting astride his horse on a conveniently nearby hill, watching as his plans unfold.

But what is the difference between these two words: tactics and strategy? When it comes to war, these words are often mistakenly used interchangeably, so let’s pick them apart.

tactics (noun)—the placement of troops on a battlefield and their orders during combat; the specific method in which someone or something goes about achieving a goal, often in business or politics

While the army had won a major victory, the general knew that he could not rely on the same tactics should he meet the barbarians again.

Winning the local election would require that he pay greater attention to the political tactics employed by his opponent.

Tactics can often change on the fly. For example, if the general notices that one flank of his army is beginning to deteriorate, he can move his units around to better strengthen that area. Likewise, if he notices that the enemy has a weak spot, he might order his forces to concentrate their arrows or advance to that spot. In a political debate, a candidate may realise that their strong stance towards a certain topic is producing a negative response from their audience, so they might switch up to a more compassionate approach.

strategy (noun)—a plan of action with a larger goal in mind

It was an ambitious strategy—to move from township to township across the country, engaging everyone in their path until they reached the capital city.

While his many in Mr Smith’s constituency spoke out about Mr Jones’ bad policies, Smith knew that his opponent was as gifted as he when it came to political strategy.

It’s all to do with scale, really. In a campaign, the overall strategy might be to invade a country by going along a certain route, lay siege to its capital and overthrow the monarch. But what happens on the battlefield itself each day comes down to tactics—where to put your soldiers, how many of your reserves you call upon, keep the terrain in mind and the weather conditions. In politics, you try to get yourself elected to parliament and then get your party elected to government; but how you go about doing all that comes down to tactics.

The fluidity that is explained above with regards to tactics isn’t as readily available for strategy, as that would require changing the end goal to some extent. Perhaps the general had hoped to take a shorter route through the mountains in order to reach the capital city, but the defending force has blockaded that route. Despite trying many different tactics, the general might be unable to break through the blockade in order to continue on his way. This might result in a change of strategy—to instead march his forces around the mountains. The plan has now changed. They still mean to head towards the city, but their route is vastly different.

These two words can also be applied to many other things, too. In sport, your coach may have a game plan to win the match, so he puts players on the field, makes interchanges and moves people around as necessary (tactics). Your overall goal as a team might be to win the league or to get through as many knockout stages as possible. Where the strategy comes in is when the coach decides to make you all train twice a week instead of once to make you all fitter, or decides against playing in a knockout competition to focus your attention on winning the league.

So whether you’re on a battlefield (unlikely), in an office or playing your sport under the blazing sun, there’s still a difference between tactics and strategy.

A Very Short Wedding

Z’ink was a dunmer who had survived the Imperial chop and an attack from Alduin that had decimated the mountain town of Helgen. She was a fearless warrior, though perhaps a little clumsy, who was a master thief and bowman without equal. She was the champion of the weak and the bane of the corrupt, the saviour of prisoners of war and the rescuer of goats—the lattermost title being something of a joke, but undoubtedly true. She was swift as the wind, silent as the stars and as deadly as the cold touch of death himself.

She had stood before the flying wyrms of Skyrim in defiance and had heard the call from the Greybeards. She had climbed the slopes of the Throat of the World, become master of the wind and snow. She had learnt the Words of Power, mastered the Tongue, conversed with dragons and battled the servants of darkness. She had found the ancient Scrolls, travelled through time and survived the fractured vortex. She had walked into Sovngarde itself, summoned the World-Eater, then defeated him.

But she was a dark elf in a country of Nords being torn apart by a civil war. She was an outsider. Yet, she was determined to break down the barriers of prejudice among the coldest and hardest of Nords. She was resolved to change their minds, to prove to them that they had allies outside their own countrymen, that not every race wished to crush their culture and denounce their gods.

So she gave up her destiny to rid Skyrim of dragons. She turned away from the thieves of Riften. She broke her ties with the Blades in Sky Haven Temple. She rejected the neutral stance of the Greybeards. She left her adopted children in the hands of her house karl. She sharpened her dual swords and restrung her bow. She gathered her enchanted arrows and filled her pack with soul gems. Then she sent a message to Ralof of Riverwood and, together, they walked through the great gates of Windhelm.

She met with Jarl Ulfric and pledged her weapons to his cause, to give back Skyrim to the Nords. She spoke the oath to obey and honour the Jarl, to the true High King. She promised to serve and protect her brothers and sisters, ‘til death and beyond. She followed Ulfric’s orders to the letter and, despite her race, he began to trust her with his military secrets. She rose through the ranks of the Stormcloaks, from Unblooded to Stormblade, aiding her Shield-Siblings in the mountains, in the forests, amidst the tundra and in the cities. The citizens of Windhelm knew her name and sang songs of her victories in the taverns. And among those who sang was Angrenor, so-called Once-Honored.

A veteran of the rebellion against the Imperial rule over Skyrim, Angrenor had fallen from his proud place among the Stormcloaks to a mere beggar on the streets. During a fierce fight, he had suffered a strike to the back from an Imperial soldier and been left for dead. Unable to continue the struggle after his wound had healed over, he had moved from profession to profession, but had been turned away from all—he was not the strong man he had once been. On the streets, he had seen men from Cyrodiil, elves and even argonians working in his stead and his frustration had turned to anger at these outsiders, and he blamed them for his woes.

Yet not her—not the Dovahkiin, the Stormblade. Outsider though she was, she was fighting the war he could not and had proven her loyalty time and time again. When she was visiting the city, she spent her nights in the tavern, telling all who cared to listen of her adventures in the snow. She spoke of distant islands surrounded by sheets of ice where wraiths walked. She told of the kingdoms underground, deserted and overgrown with glowing mushrooms as large as trees. She spoke of dragons and Sovngarde, of the Nords of old and how Alduin had been banished for eternity. And night after night, he would stand at the back and listen in awe, equally hoping and dreading that this elf, who defied all his beliefs, would notice him.

And one day, she did.

It was his voice, she told him later, that first attracted her—not the stories of his days as a rebel or the numerous scars that crisscrossed his skin. She could listen to him for hours, she said, just like he could listen to her. They would walk the city streets together in the brief moments she was stationed in Windhelm and not bound to Ulfric’s side. He would pick her flowers, and she would laugh and tell him of their medicinal properties. As the months passed, she visited the city more and more, and he hoped it was because of him.

Before he realised what he was doing, he was looking at rings in the local marketplace, jewels that he could never afford but dreamt of buying her. Sadness gripped him now, for surely the Stormblade would never wish to bind herself to him, for what could he contribute? He was an injured veteran—his youth was behind him, while she was in her prime. He had no home and owned nothing but the ragged clothes on his back and a handful of coins that he spent on bread to fill his belly and mead to drown his sorrows.

And yet, despite his woes, it was her who approached him. She had enough money for both of them, she said, and had bought Hjerim house, so he could have a place to call home. He could buy himself new clothes, he would never again know hunger, he could regain his pride and walk the city streets with his head held high. She had spoken with the priests in the Temple of Mara in Riften, they were happy to perform the ceremony, if he was willing to stand beside her and take the vows. Through tears, he said he was willing.

The Temple of Mara was full that morning. The light shining through the stained glass window fell upon Zin’k as she stood at the altar in her Stormblade robes, proud and nervous. Her friends had come from near and far and her two adopted children stood anxiously beside her. The call came up from the man at the door, the groom had arrived! It was time. The crowd inside were hushed and the bard began her song as the doors opened. Gasps.

Angrenor the Once-Honored had not bought himself a new suit, as she had expected. She had given him the money, so Talos only knew what he had done with it. His feet bare, his face still dirty, he walked up the aisle and took his place beside her and smiled. She raised her eyebrows. The ceremony went on, as though this had been expected of him, but the Dovahkiin kept glancing at her husband-to-be, wondering whether this was some sort of joke.

The priestess proclaimed them to be married and the rings were exchanged. Zin’k leant forward to shake the priestess’ hand, but when she turned back, Angrenor was gone. She looked around in bewilderment. He had left the temple early!

‘Hey, is this another bug? What’s going on?’

This moment made me laugh the first time one of my characters got married in Skyrim, and made me wonder why the devs had not spent a little bit more time working on the ‘romance’ aspect of the game. With hundreds of thousands of gold, the Dovahkin would undoubtedly have given her homeless husband-to-be some money to buy some proper clothes, so the fact he turned up in rags to the wedding was just hysterical.

However, once this happened with all my other characters, I began to realise that, well, this was just another of those funny quirks the game now boasts. Thank you, Skyrim. Many fond memories.

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