American and British English spelling differences

One of the ways in which American English and British English differ is in spelling.

Contents

Historical origins

In the early 18th century, English spelling was not standardized. Differences became noticeable after the publishing of influential dictionaries. Current British English spellings follow, for the most part, those of Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), whereas many American English spellings follow Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828).[1]

Webster was a strong proponent of English spelling reform for reasons both philological and nationalistic. Many spelling changes proposed in the United States by Webster himself, and in the early 20th century by the Simplified Spelling Board, never caught on. Among the advocates of spelling reform in England, the influences of those who preferred the Norman (or Anglo-French) spellings of certain words proved to be decisive. Subsequent spelling adjustments in the United Kingdom had little effect on present-day American spellings and vice-versa. In many cases, American English deviated in the 19th century from mainstream British spelling, but it has also retained some older forms.

The spelling systems of most Commonwealth countries and Ireland, for the most part, closely resemble the British system. In Canada, however, the preferred spellings include some American forms and some British,[2] and Canadians are somewhat more tolerant of foreign forms.[3]

Latin-derived spellings

-our, -or

Most words ending in an unstressed -our in British English (e.g. colour, flavour, honour, neighbour, rumour, labour, humour) end in -or in American English (cf. color, flavor, honor, neighbor, rumor, labor, humor). Wherever the vowel is unreduced in pronunciation, this does not occur: e.g. contour, velour, paramour and troubadour are spelled thus the same everywhere.

Most words of this category derive from Latin non-agent nouns having nominative -or; the first such borrowings into English were from early Old French and the ending was -or or -ur.[4] After the Norman Conquest, the ending became -our in Anglo-French in an attempt to represent the Old French pronunciation of words ending in -or,[5] though color has been used occasionally in English since the 15th century.[6] The -our ending was not only retained in English borrowings from Anglo-French, but also applied to earlier French borrowings.[4] After the Renaissance, some such borrowings from Latin were taken up with their original -or ending; many words once ending in -our (for example, chancellour and governour) now end in -or everywhere. Many words of the -our/-or group do not have a Latin counterpart; for example, armo(u)r, behavio(u)r, harbo(u)r, neighbo(u)r; also arbo(u)r meaning "shelter", though senses "tree" and "tool" are always arbor, a false cognate of the other word. Some 16th- and early 17th-century British scholars indeed insisted that -or be used for words of Latin origin (e.g. color[6]) and -our for French loans; but in many cases the etymology was not completely clear, and therefore some scholars advocated -or only and others -our only.[7]

Webster's 1828 dictionary featured only -or and is generally given much of the credit for the adoption of this form in the United States. By contrast, Dr Johnson's 1755 dictionary used the -our spelling for all words still so spelt in Britain, and others where the u has since been dropped: ambassadour, emperour, governour, perturbatour; inferiour, superiour; errour, horrour, mirrour, tenour, terrour, tremour. Johnson, unlike Webster, was not an advocate of spelling reform, but selected the version best-derived, as he saw it, from among the variations in his sources: he favored French over Latin spellings because, as he put it, "the French generally supplied us".[8] Those English speakers who began to move across the Atlantic would have taken these habits with them and H L Mencken makes the point that, "honor appears in the Declaration of Independence, but it seems to have got there rather by accident than by design. In Jefferson's original draft it is spelt honour."[9] Examples such as color, flavor, behavior, harbor and neighbor scarcely appear in the Old Bailey's court records from the 17th and 18th century, whereas examples of their -our counterparts are numbered in thousands.[10] One notable exception is honor. Honor and honour were equally frequent until the 17th century;[11] Honor still is, in the UK, the normal spelling as a person's name.

Derivatives and inflected forms

In derivatives and inflected forms of the -our/or words, in British usage, the u is kept before English suffixes that are freely attachable to English words (neighbourhood, humourless, savoury) and suffixes of Greek or Latin origin that have been naturalised (favourite, honourable, behaviourism); before Latin suffixes that are not freely attachable to English words, the u may be dropped (honorific, honorist, vigorous, humorous, laborious, invigorate), may be either dropped or retained (colo(u)ration, colo(u)rise), or may be retained (colourist).[4] In American usage, derivatives and inflected forms are built by simply adding the suffix in all environments (favorite, savory etc.) since the u is absent to begin with.

Exceptions

American usage, in most cases, retains the u in the word glamour, which comes from Scots, not Latin or French. Glamor is occasionally used in imitation of the spelling reform of other -our words to -or. The adjective glamorous usually omits the first "u". Saviour is a somewhat common variant of savior in the US. The British spelling is very common for honour (and favour) in the formal language of wedding invitations in the US.[12] The name of the Space Shuttle Endeavour has a u in it since this spacecraft was named after Captain James Cook's ship, HMS Endeavour. The special car on Amtrak's Coast Starlight train is known as the Pacific Parlour car, not Pacific Parlor.

The name of the herb savory is thus spelt everywhere, although the related adjective savo(u)ry, like savo(u)r, has a u in the UK. Honor (the name) and arbor (the tool) have -or in Britain, as mentioned above. As a general noun, rigour (/ˈrɪɡər/) has a u in the UK; the medical term rigor (often pronounced /ˈraɪɡɔr/) does not. Words with the ending -irior, -erior or similar are spelt thus everywhere.

Commonwealth usage

Commonwealth countries normally follow British usage. In Canada -or endings are not uncommon, particularly in the Prairie provinces. In Australia, -or endings enjoyed some use in the 19th century, and now are sporadically found in some regions,[7] usually in local and regional newspapers, though the most notable countrywide use of -or is for the Australian Labor Party, which was named in hono(u)r of the American labo(u)r movement.[13] Aside from that, -our is almost universal. New Zealand English, while sharing some words and syntax with Australian English, follows British usage.

-re, -er

In British usage, some words of French, Latin or Greek origin end with a consonant followed by -re, with the -re unstressed and pronounced /ə˞/. Most of these words have the ending -er in the United States.[14][15] The difference is most common for words ending -bre or -tre: British spellings calibre, centre, fibre, goitre, litre, lustre, metre, mitre, nitre, reconnoitre, sabre, saltpetre, sombre, spectre, theatre and titre all have -er in American spelling.

There are many exceptions to the -re spelling in British usage. Many words spelt with -re in Modern French are spelt with -er in both British and American usage; among these are chapter, December, disaster, enter, filter, letter, member, minister, monster, November, number, October, oyster, perimeter (but not "parametre"), powder, proper, September, sober and tender.

The ending -cre, as in acre,[16] lucre, massacre and mediocre, is preserved in American English, to indicate the c is pronounced /k/ rather than /s/.[citation needed]

After other consonants, there are not many -re endings even in British English: louvre[16] and manoeuvre after -v; meagre, eagre (but not eager) and ogre after -g; and euchre, ochre and sepulchre after -ch. In the United States, ogre, ochre, and euchre are standard; manoeuvre and sepulchre are usually spelt as maneuver and sepulcher; and the other -re forms listed are less used variants of the equivalent -er form.[citation needed]

The e preceding the r is retained in American-derived forms of nouns and verbs, for example, fibers, reconnoitered, centering, which are, naturally, fibres, reconnoitred and centring respectively in British usage. Centring is a particularly interesting example, since it is still pronounced as three syllables in British English (/ˈsɛntərɪŋ/), yet there is no vowel letter in the spelling corresponding to the second syllable. It is dropped for other derivations, for example, central, fibrous, spectral. However such dropping cannot be regarded as proof of an -re British spelling: for example, entry derives from enter, which has not been spelt entre for centuries.[17]

The difference relates only to root words; -er rather than -re is universal as a suffix for agentive (reader, winner, user) and comparative (louder, nicer) forms. One consequence is the British distinction of meter for a measuring instrument from metre for the unit of length. However, while "poetic metre" is often -re, pentameter, hexameter etc. are always -er.[18]

Exceptions

Many other words have -er in British English. These include Germanic words like anger, mother, timber and water and Romance words like danger, quarter and river.

Theater is the prevailing American spelling used to refer to both the dramatic arts and buildings where stage performances and screenings of films take place (i.e. "movie theaters"); for example, a national newspaper such as The New York Times uses theater throughout its "Theater", "Movies" and "Arts & Leisure" sections. In contrast, the spelling theatre appears in the names of many New York City theatres on Broadway[19] (cf. Broadway theatre) and elsewhere in the United States. In 2003, the proposal of the American National Theatre, eventually to be founded and inaugurated in autumn 2007, was referred to by The New York Times as the "American National Theater"; but the organisation uses "re" in the spelling of its name.[20][21] The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. features the more common American spelling theater in its references to The Eisenhower Theater, part of the Kennedy Center.[22] Some cinemas outside New York also use the theatre spelling.[23]

In many instances, places in the United States use Centre in their names. Examples include the Stonebriar Centre mall in Frisco, Texas, the cities of Rockville Centre, New York and Centreville, Illinois, Centre County, Pennsylvania, and Centre College in Kentucky. Sometimes these places were named before spelling changes took effect but more often the spelling merely serves as an affectation. An apparent example of the use of Center in the United Kingdom is the Valley Centertainment in Sheffield, although this is in fact a portmanteau of centre and entertainment.

For British accoutre, the American practice varies: the Merriam-Webster Dictionary prefers the -re spelling[24] but the American Heritage Dictionary prefers the -er spelling.[25]

More recent French loanwords retain an -re spelling in American English. These are not exceptions when a French-style pronunciation is used (/rə/ rather than /ər/), as with double-entendre, genre and oeuvre. However, the unstressed /ər/ pronunciation of an -er ending is used more or less frequently with some words, including cadre, macabre, maître d', Notre Dame, piastre, and timbre.

Commonwealth usage

The -re endings are mostly standard throughout the Commonwealth. The -er spellings are recognised as minor variants in Canada, due in part to American influences. Proper names, particularly names incorporating the word Centre/Center, are an occasional source of exceptions, such as, for example, Toronto's controversially-named Centerpoint Mall.[26]

-ce, -se

American English and British English both retain the noun/verb distinction in advice / advise and device / devise (where the pronunciation is -[s] for the noun and -[z] for the verb), but American English has abandoned the distinction with licence / license and practice / practise (where the two words in each pair are homophones) that British spelling retains. American English uses license and practice for both meanings.

American English has kept the Anglo-French spelling for defense and offense, which are usually defence and offence in British English; similarly there are the American pretense and British pretence; but derivatives such as defensive, offensive, and pretension are always thus spelled in both systems.

Australian[27] and Canadian usage generally follows British.

-xion, -ction

The spelling connexion is now rare in everyday British usage, its employment declining as knowledge of Latin declines,[28] and it is not used at all in America: the more common connection has become the standard internationally. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the older spelling is more etymologically conservative, since the word actually derives from Latin forms in -xio-. The American usage derives from Webster who discarded the -xion in favor of -ction by analogy with such verbs as connect.[29]

Complexion (which comes from the stem complex) is standard and complection usually is not.[30] However, the adjective complected (as in "dark-complected"), although sometimes objected to, is standard in US English as an alternative to complexioned,[31] but is quite unknown in this sense in the UK, although there is a rare usage to mean complicated.[32]

Greek-derived spellings

-ise, -ize (-isation, -ization)

American and Canadian[33] spelling accepts only -ize endings in most cases, such as organize, realize, and recognize.[34] British usage is split between both -ize and -ise (organize / organise, realize / realise, recognize / recognise),[34] and the ratio between -ise and -ize stands at 3:2 in the British National Corpus.[35] In Australia and New Zealand -ise spellings strongly prevail: the -ise form is preferred in Australian English at a ratio of about 3:1 according to the Macquarie Dictionary.

Worldwide, -ize endings prevail in scientific writing and are commonly used by many international organizations, such as the ISO and the WHO. The European Union switched from -ize to -ise some years ago in its English language publications, and this resulted in the coexistence of the -ize spelling in older legislative acts and the -ise spelling in more recent ones. Proofreaders at the EU's Publications Office ensure consistent spelling in official publications such as the Official Journal (where legislation and other official documents are published), but the -ize spelling may be found in other documents.

The same pattern applies to derivatives and inflexions such as colonisation/colonization.

British usage

British English using -ize is known as Oxford spelling, and is used in publications of the Oxford University Press, most notably the Oxford English Dictionary. It can be identified using the registered IANA language tag en-GB-oed. The OED lists the -ise form separately, as "a frequent spelling of -IZE", and refuses to list the -ise spellings even as alternatives in the individual entries for words such as realize.[36] It firmly deprecates usage of -ise for words of Greek origin, stating, "[T]he suffix..., whatever the element to which it is added, is in its origin the Greek -ιζειν, Latin -izāre; and, as the pronunciation is also with z, there is no reason why in English the special French spelling in -iser should be followed, in opposition to that which is at once etymological and phonetic." It maintains "... some have used the spelling -ise in English, as in French, for all these words, and some prefer -ise in words formed in French or English from Latin elements, retaining -ize for those of Greek composition."[37] Noah Webster rejected -ise for the same reasons.[38]

The Cambridge University Press, on the other hand, has long favoured -ise,[39] as do some other references, including Fowler's Modern English Usage.[39]

Perhaps as a reaction to the ascendancy of American spelling, the -ize spelling is often incorrectly viewed in Britain as an Americanism, and -ise is more commonly used in the UK mass media and newspapers,[34] including The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Economist. Meanwhile, -ize is used in many British-based academic publications, such as Nature, the Biochemical Journal and The Times Literary Supplement.

Exceptions

Some verbs ending in -ize or -ise do not derive from Greek -ιζειν, and their endings are therefore not interchangeable:

  • Some words take the -z- form exclusively, for instance capsize, seize (except in the legal phrase to be seised of/to stand seised to), size and prize (only in the "appraise" sense)
  • Others take only -s-: advertise, advise, apprise, arise, circumcise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disguise, excise, exercise, franchise, guise, improvise, incise, merchandise (noun), revise, rise, supervise, surmise, surprise, televise, and wise.
  • One special case is the verb prise (meaning to force or lever), which is spelled prize in the US[40] and prise everywhere else,[41] including Canada,[42] although in North American English it is almost always replaced by pry, a back-formation from or alteration of prise.[43]

-yse, -yze

The distribution of -yse and -yze endings, as in analyse / analyze, is different from -ise / -ize: -yse is British and -yze is American. Thus, in British English analyse, catalyse, hydrolyse, and paralyse, but in American English analyze, catalyze, hydrolyze, and paralyze.

Analyse seems to have been the more common spelling in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English, but many of the great dictionaries of that period – John Kersey's of 1702, Nathan Bailey's of 1721 and Samuel Johnson's of 1755 – prefer analyze. In Canada, -yze prevails, just as in the United States. In Australia and New Zealand, -yse stands alone.

English verbs ending in -yse or -yze are not similar to the Greek verb, which is λύω lúō "I release". Instead they come from the noun form λύσις lysis with the -ise or -ize suffix. For example, analyse comes from French analyser, formed by haplology from the French analysiser,[44] which would be spelled analysise or analysize in English.

-ogue, -og

Some words of Greek origin, a few of which derive from Greek λόγος or αγωγός, can end either in -ogue or in -og: analog(ue), catalog(ue), dialog(ue), demagog(ue), pedagog(ue), monolog(ue), homolog(ue), synagog(ue) etc. In the UK (and generally in the Commonwealth), the -ogue endings are the standard. In the US, catalog has a slight edge over catalogue[45] (the inflected forms, cataloged and cataloging v catalogued and cataloguing); analog is standard for the adjective,[citation needed] but both analogue and analog are current for the noun; in all other cases the -gue endings strongly prevail,[46] for example monologue, except for such expressions as dialog box in computing,[47] which are also used in the UK. Finally, in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia analogue is used, but just as in the US analog has some currency as a technical term[48] (e.g. in electronics, as in "analog electronics" as opposed to "digital electronics" and some video-game consoles might have an analog stick).

The dropping of the "ue" is mandatory in forming such related words as "analogy", "analogous", and "analogist".

Simplification of ae and oe

Many words are written with ae/æ or oe/œ in British English, but a single e in American English. The sound in question is /iː/ or /ɛ/ (or unstressed /ɨ/). Examples (with non-American letter in bold): aesthetics, amoeba, anaemia, anaesthesia, caesium, diarrhoea, encyclopaedia, faeces, foetal, gynaecology, haemophilia, leukaemia, oesophagus, oestrogen, orthopaedic, palaeontology, paediatric. Oenology is acceptable in American English but is regarded as a minor variant of enology.

The spelling foetal is a Britishism based on a false etymology.[49] The etymologically correct original spelling "fetus" reflects the Latin original and is the standard spelling in medical journals worldwide.[50]

Exceptions to the American simplification rule include aesthetics and archaeology, which usually prevail over esthetics and archeology, respectively,[51] as well as the stronger case of palaestra, in which the simplified form palestra is a variant described by Merriam-Webster as "chiefly Brit[ish]."[52]

Words where British usage varies include encyclopaedia, homoeopathy, mediaeval, and foetus (though the British medical community, as well as at least one authoritative source,[53] consider this variant to be unacceptable for the purposes of journal articles and the like, since the Latin spelling was actually fetus).

The Ancient Greek diphthongs <αι> and <οι> were transliterated into Latin as <ae> and <oe>. The ligatures æ and œ were introduced when the sounds became monophthongs, and later applied to words not of Greek origin, in both Latin (for example, cœli) and French (for example, œuvre). In English, which has imported words from all three languages, it is now usual to replace Æ/æ with Ae/ae and Œ/œ with Oe/oe. In many cases, the digraph has been reduced to a single e in all varieties of English: for example, oeconomics, praemium, and aenigma.[54] In others, it is retained in all varieties: for example, phoenix, and usually subpoena.[55] This is especially true of names: Caesar, Oedipus, Phoebe etc. There is no reduction of Latin -ae plurals (e.g. larvae); nor where the digraph <ae>/<oe> does not result from the Greek-style ligature: for example, maelstrom, toe. The British form aeroplane is an instance (compare other aero- words such as aerosol). The now chiefly North American airplane is not a respelling but a recoining, modeled after airship and aircraft. The word airplane dates from 1907,[56] at which time the prefix aero- was trisyllabic, often written aëro-.

Internationally, the American spelling is closer to the usage in a number of other languages using the Latin alphabet.[citation needed] For instance, almost all Romance languages (which tend to have more phonemic spelling) lack the ae and oe spellings (a notable exception being French), as do Swedish, Polish, and others, while Dutch uses them sometimes ("ae" is rare, but "oe" is the normal representation of the sound [u], while written "u" represents either the sound [y] or [ʏ]). The languages Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian and some others retain the original ligatures. In German, through umlauts, is retained as its equivalent of the ligature, for when written without the umlaut. These words resemble the British usage (i.e. ä becomes ae and ö becomes oe). Similarly, Hungarian uses "é" as a replacement for "ae" (although it becomes "e" sometimes), and the special character "ő" (sometimes "ö") for "oe".

Commonwealth usage

In Canada, e is usually preferred over oe and often over ae as well, just as in the neighbouring United States.[citation needed] In Australia and elsewhere, the British usage prevails, but the spellings with just e are increasingly used.[57] Manoeuvre is the only spelling in Australia, and the most common one in Canada, where maneuver and manoeuver are also sometimes found.[58]

This shortening is natural, especially since the Canadian Forces in the air and on the oceans are frequently involved in joint maneuvers with the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy. In Canada, oe and ae are used occasionally in the academic and science communities.[citation needed]

Doubled consonants

Doubled in British English

The final consonant of an English word is sometimes doubled in both American and British spelling when adding a suffix beginning with a vowel, for example strip/stripped, which prevents confusion with stripe/striped and shows the difference in pronunciation (see digraph). Generally, this occurs only when the word's final syllable is stressed and when it also ends with a single vowel followed by a single consonant. In British English, however, a final -l is often doubled even when the final syllable is unstressed.[59] This exception is no longer usual in American English, apparently because of Noah Webster.[60] The -ll- spellings are nevertheless still regarded as acceptable variants by both Merriam-Webster Collegiate and American Heritage dictionaries.

  • The British English doubling is required for all inflections (-ed, -ing, -er, -est) and for the noun suffixes -er and -or. Therefore, British English usage is cancelled, counsellor, cruellest, labelled, modelling, quarrelled, signalling, traveller, and travelling. Americans usually use canceled, counselor, cruelest, labeled, modeling, quarreled, signaling, traveler, and traveling.
    • The word parallel keeps a single -l- in British English, as in American English (paralleling, unparalleled), to avoid the unappealing cluster -llell-.
    • Words with two vowels before a final l are also spelled with -ll- in British English before a suffix when the first vowel either acts as a consonant (equalling and initialled; in the United States, equaling or initialed), or belongs to a separate syllable (British fu•el•ling and di•alled; American fu•el•ing and di•aled).
      • British woollen is a further exception due to the double vowel (American: woolen). Also, wooly is accepted in American English, though woolly dominates in both systems.[61]
  • Endings -ize /-ise, -ism, -ist, -ish usually do not double the l in British English; for example, normalise, dualism, novelist, and devilish.
    • Exceptions: tranquillise; duellist, medallist, panellist, and sometimes triallist in British English.
  • For -ous, British English has a single l in scandalous and perilous, but the "ll" in marvellous and libellous.
  • For -ee, British English has libellee.
  • For -age, British English has pupillage but vassalage.
  • American English sometimes has an unstressed -ll-, as in the UK, in some words where the root has -l. These are cases where the alteration occurs in the source language, which was often Latin. (Examples: bimetallism, cancellation, chancellor, crystallize, excellent, tonsillitis, and raillery.)
  • All forms of English have compelled, excelling, propelled, rebelling (notice the stress difference); revealing, fooling (note the double vowel before the l); and hurling (consonant before the l).
  • Canadian and Australian English largely follow British usage.[59]

Among consonants other than l, practice varies for some words, such as where the final syllable has secondary stress or an unreduced vowel. In the United States, the spellings kidnaped and worshiped, which were introduced by the Chicago Tribune in the 1920s,[62] are common. Kidnapped and worshipped are the only standard British spellings.

Miscellaneous:

  • British calliper or caliper; American caliper.
  • British jewellery; American jewelry. The standard pronunciations (/ˈdʒuːᵊlri/)[63] do not reflect this difference. According to Fowler, jewelry used to be the "rhetorical and poetic" spelling in the UK. Canada has both, but jewellery is more often used. Likewise, the Commonwealth (including Canada) has jeweller and the United States has jeweler for a jewel(le)ry retailer.

Doubled in American English

Conversely, there are words where British writers prefer a single l and Americans usually use a double l. In American usage, the spelling of words is usually not changed when they form the main part (not prefix or suffix) of other words, especially in newly formed words and in words whose main part is in common use. Words exhibiting this spelling difference include wil(l)ful, skil(l)ful, thral(l)dom, appal(l), fulfil(l), fulfil(l)ment, enrol(l)ment, instal(l)ment. These words have monosyllabic cognates always written with -ll: will, skill, thrall, pall, fill, roll, stall, still. Cases where a single l nevertheless occurs in both American and British English include nullannul, annulment; tilluntil (although some prefer "til" to reflect the single L in "until", occasionally using an apostrophe ['til]); and others where the connection is not transparent or the monosyllabic cognate is not in common use in American English (e.g. null is used mainly as a technical term in law, mathematics, and computer science).

In the UK, ll is used occasionally in distil(l), instil(l), enrol(l), and enthral(l)ment, and often in enthral(l), all of which are always spelt this way in American usage. The former British spellings instal, fulness, and dulness are now quite rare.[64] The Scottish tolbooth is cognate with toll booth, but it has a specific distinct sense.

In both American and British usages, words normally spelled -ll usually drop the second l when used as prefixes or suffixes, for example fulluseful, handful; allalmighty, altogether; wellwelfare, welcome; chillchilblain.

The British fulfil and American fulfill are never fullfill or fullfil.

Dr Johnson wavered on this issue. His dictionary of 1755 lemmatises distil and instill, downhil and uphill.[65]

Dropped e

British English sometimes keeps silent e when adding suffixes where American English does not. Generally speaking, British English drops it in only some cases in which it is unnecessary to indicate pronunciation whereas American English only uses it where necessary.

  • British prefers ageing,[66] American usually aging (compare raging, ageism). For the noun or verb "route", British English often uses routeing,[67] but in America routing is used. (The military term rout forms routing everywhere.) However, all of these words form "router", whether used in the context of carpentry, data communications, or military. (e.g. "Attacus was the router of the Huns at ....")

Both forms of English retain the silent e in the words dyeing, singeing, and swingeing[68] (in the sense of dye, singe, and swinge), to distinguish from dying, singing, swinging (in the sense of die, sing, and swing). In contrast, the verb bathe and the British verb bath both form bathing. Both forms of English vary for tinge and twinge; both prefer cringing, hinging, lunging, syringing.

  • Before -able, British English prefers likeable, liveable, rateable, saleable, sizeable, unshakeable,[69] where American practice prefers to drop the -e; but both British and American English prefer breathable, curable, datable, lovable, movable, notable, provable, quotable, scalable, solvable, usable,[69] and those where the root is polysyllabic, like believable or decidable. Both forms of the language retain the silent e when it is necessary to preserve a soft c, ch, or g, such as in traceable, cacheable, changeable; both usually retain the "e" after -dge, as in knowledgeable, unbridgeable, and unabridgeable. ("These rights are unabridgeable.")
  • Both abridgment and the more regular abridgement are current in America, only the latter in the UK.[70] Similarly for the word lodg(e)ment. Both judgment and judgement are in use interchangeably everywhere, although the former prevails in America and the latter prevails in the UK[71] except in the practice of law, where judgment is standard. The similar situation holds for abridgment and acknowledgment. Both forms of English prefer fledgling to fledgeling, but ridgeling to ridgling.
  • The word "blue" always drops the "e" when forming "bluish" or "bluing".

Different spellings for different meanings

  • dependant or dependent: British dictionaries distinguish between dependent (adjective) and dependant (noun). In the US, dependent is usual for both noun and adjective, notwithstanding that dependant is also an acceptable variant for the noun form in the US.[72]
  • disc or disk: Traditionally, disc used to be British and disk American. Both spellings are etymologically sound (Greek diskos, Latin discus), although disk is earlier. In computing, disc is used for optical discs (e.g. a CD, Compact Disc; DVD, Digital Versatile/Video Disc), by choice of the group that coined and trademarked the name Compact Disc, while disk is used for products using magnetic storage (e.g. hard disks or floppy disks, also known as diskettes).[73] For this limited application, these spellings are used in both the US and the Commonwealth. Solid-state devices also use the spelling "disk".
  • enquiry or inquiry:[74] According to Fowler, inquiry should be used in relation to a formal inquest, and enquiry to the act of questioning. Many (though not all) British writers maintain this distinction; the OED, on the other hand, lists inquiry and enquiry as equal alternatives, in that order. Some British dictionaries, such as Chambers 21st Century Dictionary,[75] present the two spellings as interchangeable variants in the general sense, but prefer inquiry for the "formal inquest" sense. In the US, only inquiry is commonly used; the title of The National Enquirer, as a proper name, is an exception. In Australia, inquiry and enquiry are often interchangeable, but inquiry prevails in writing.[citation needed] Both are current in Canada, where enquiry is often associated with scholarly or intellectual research.
  • ensure or insure: In the UK (and Australia), the word ensure (to make sure, to make certain) has a distinct meaning from the word insure (often followed by against – to guarantee or protect against, typically by means of an "insurance policy"). The distinction is only about a century old,[76] and this helps explain why in (North) America ensure is just a variant of insure, more often than not. According to Merriam-Webster's usage notes, ensure and insure "are interchangeable in many contexts where they indicate the making certain or [making] inevitable of an outcome, but ensure may imply a virtual guarantee <the government has ensured the safety of the refugees>, while insure sometimes stresses the taking of necessary measures beforehand <careful planning should insure the success of the party>."[77]
  • insurance or assurance: In the business of risk transfer, American English speakers will normally refer to life insurance or fire insurance. In British English, "assurance" refers to risk associated with certainty, such as covering death (death is inevitable), whereas "insurance" refers to uncertainty (such as a home insurance policy). In British English "life insurance" is used for a policy covering uncertainty (for example, a pianist's hands may be covered under "life insurance"). Canadian speakers remain more likely than US speakers to use assurance.[78]
  • matt or matte: In the UK, matt refers to a non-glossy surface, and matte to the motion-picture technique; in the US, matte covers both.[79]
  • programme or program: The British programme is a 19th-century French version of program. Program first appeared in Scotland in the 17th century and is the only spelling found in the US. The OED entry, written around 1908 and listing both spellings, said program was preferable, since it conformed to the usual representation of the Greek as in anagram, diagram, telegram etc. In British English, program is the common spelling for computer programs, but for other meanings programme is used. In Australia, program has been endorsed by government writing standards for all senses since the 1960s,[80] although programme is also seen; see also the name of The Micallef Program(me). In Canada, program prevails, and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary makes no meaning-based distinction between it and programme. However, some Canadian government documents nevertheless use programme in all senses of the word – and also to match the spelling of the French equivalent.[80]
  • tonne or ton: in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, the spelling tonne refers to the metric unit (1000 kilograms), whereas in the US the same unit is referred to as a metric ton. The unqualified ton usually refers to the long ton (2,240 lb.) in the UK and to the short ton (2,000 pounds (910 kg)) in the US (but note that the tonne and long ton differ by only 1.6%, and are roughly interchangeable when accuracy is not critical; ton and tonne are usually pronounced the same in speech).

See also meter/metre, for which there is a British English distinction between these etymologically related forms with different meanings but the standardised American spelling is "meter". The spelling used by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures is "metre".[81] This spelling is also the usual one in most English-speaking countries, but only the spelling "meter" is used in American English, and this is officially endorsed by the United States.[82]

Different spellings for different pronunciations

In a few cases, essentially the same word has a different spelling that reflects a different pronunciation. However, in most cases the pronunciation of the words is the same.

As well as the miscellaneous cases listed in the following table, the past tenses of some irregular verbs differ in both spelling and pronunciation, as with smelt (UK) versus smelled (US) (see American and British English differences: Verb morphology).

UK US Notes
airplane Aeroplane, originally a French loanword with a different meaning, is the older spelling.[83] The oldest recorded uses of the spelling airplane are British.[83] According to the OED,[84] "[a]irplane became the standard American term (replacing aeroplane) after this was adopted by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1916. Although A. Lloyd James recommended its adoption by the BBC in 1928, it has until recently been no more than an occasional form in British English." In the British National Corpus,[85] aeroplane outnumbers airplane by more than 7:1 in the UK. The case is similar for the British aerodrome[86] and American airdrome,[87] although both of these terms are now obsolete. Aerodrome is used merely as a technical term in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The prefixes aero- and air- both mean air, with the first coming from the Ancient Greek word ἀήρ (āēr). Thus, the prefix appears in aeronautics, aerostatics, aerodynamics, aeronautical engineering and so on, while the second occurs invariably in aircraft, airport, airliner, airmail etc. In Canada, airplane is more common than aeroplane, although aeroplane is not unknown, especially in parts of French Canada (where it is, however, used only in English – the French term is avion, and the French word aéroplane designates 19th-century flying machines).[88]
aluminium aluminum The spelling aluminium is the international standard in the sciences according to the IUPAC recommendations. Humphry Davy, the element's discoverer, first proposed the name alumium, and then later aluminum. The name aluminium was finally adopted to conform with the -ium ending of metallic elements.[89] Canada uses aluminum and Australia and New Zealand aluminium, according to their respective dictionaries.[90]
arse ass In vulgar senses "buttocks" ("anus"/"wretch"/"idiot"); unrelated sense "donkey" is ass in both. Arse is very rarely used in the US, though understood.
behove behoove The 19th century had the spelling behove pronounced to rhyme with move.[91] Subsequently, a pronunciation spelling was adopted in America, while in Britain a spelling pronunciation was adopted.
bogeyman boogeyman or boogerman It is pronounced /ˈboʊɡimæn/ boh-gee-man in the UK, so that the American form, boogeyman /ˈbʊɡimæn/, is reminiscent of the 1970s disco dancing "boogie" to the British ear. Boogerman /bʊɡɚmæn/ is common in the Southern US and gives an association with the slang term booger for Nasal mucus while the mainstream American spelling of boogeyman does not.
brent brant For the species of goose.
carburettor carburetor UK: /ˌkɑrbəˈrɛtər/; US: /ˈkɑrbəreɪtər/.
charivari shivaree, charivari In America, where both terms are mainly regional,[92] charivari is usually pronounced as shivaree, which is also found in Canada and Cornwall,[93] and is a corruption of the French word.
coupé coupe For a two-door car; the horse-drawn carriage is coupé in both (meaning "cut"); unrelated "cup"/"bowl" is always coupe. In the United States, the "e" is accented when it is used as a foreign word.
eyrie aerie This noun (not to be confused with the adjective eerie) rhymes with weary and hairy respectively. Both spellings and pronunciations occur in America.
fillet fillet, filet Meat or fish. Pronounced the French way (approximately) in the US; Canada follows British pronunciation and distinguishes between fillet, especially as concerns fish, and filet, as concerns certain cuts of beef. McDonald's in the UK use the US spelling "filet" for their Filet-O-Fish.
furore furor Furore is a late 18th-century Italian loan-word that replaced the Latinate form in the UK in the following century,[94] and is usually pronounced with a voiced e. The Canadian the same as the American, and Australia has both.[95]
grotty grody Clippings of grotesque; both are slang terms from the 1960s.[96]
haulier hauler Haulage contractor; haulier is the older spelling.[97]
jemmy jimmy In the sense "crowbar".
moustache mustache In America, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary, the British spelling is an also-ran, yet the pronunciation with second-syllable stress is a common variant. In Britain the second syllable is usually stressed.
mum(my) mom(my) Mother. Mom is sporadically regionally found in the UK (e.g. in West Midlands English). Some British dialects have mam,[98] and this is often used in Northern English, Irish English, and Welsh English. In the American region of New England, especially in the case of the Boston accent, the British pronunciation of mum is often retained, while it is still spelled mom. In Canada, there are both mom and mum; Canadians often say mum and write mom.[99] In Australia and New Zealand, mum is used. In the sense of a preserved corpse, mummy is always used.
naïvety naïveté The American spelling is from French, and American speakers generally approximate the French pronunciation as /nɑːiːv(ɨ)ˈteɪ/, whereas the British spelling is nativised, as also the pronunciation /nɑːˈiːv(ɨ)ti/. In the UK, naïveté is a minor variant, used about 20% of the time in the British National Corpus; in America, naivete and naiveté are marginal variants, and naivety is almost unattested.[100][101]
pyjamas pajamas The 'y' represents the pronunciation of the original Urdu "pāy-jāma", and in the 18th century spellings such as "paijamahs" and "peijammahs" appeared: this is reflected in the pronunciation /paɪˈdʒɑːməz/ (with the first syllable rhyming with "pie") offered as an alternative in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Both "pyjamas" and "pajamas" are also known from the 18th century, but the latter became more or less confined to the US.[102] Canada follows both British and American usage, with both forms commonplace.
pernickety persnickety Persnickety is a late 19th-century American alteration of the Scots word pernickety.[103]
quin quint Abbreviations of quintuplet.
scallywag scalawag In the United States (where the word originated, as scalawag),[104] scallywag is not unknown.[105]
sledge sled
speciality specialty In British English the standard usage is speciality, but specialty occurs in the field of medicine,[106] and also as a legal term for a contract under seal. In Canada, specialty prevails. In Australia both are current.[107]
titbit tidbit According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the oldest form was "tyd bit", and the alteration to "titbit" was probably under the influence of the obsolete word "tit", meaning a small horse or girl.
whilst while Penguin Working Words recommends while only, and notes that whilst is old-fashioned. Cambridge Guide to English Usage and M-W's Webster's Guide to English Usage comment on its regional character, and note that it is rare in American usage. It is thus safer to use only while in international English. (See the article While for further sources deprecating the use of whilst, and cautioning about uses of while.)

Miscellaneous spelling differences

In the table below, the more common spellings are on top.

UK US Remarks
ache ache,
ake[108][109]
acre acre,
aker[110]
adze adz,
adze
annexe annex To annex is the verb in both British and American usage; however, when speaking of an annex(e) – the noun referring to an extension of a main building, not a military or political conquest, which would be an annexation – the root word is usually spelled with an -e at the end in the UK, but in the US it is not.
artefact artifact In British usage, artefact is the main spelling and artifact a minor variant.[111] In American English, artifact is the usual spelling. Canadians prefer artifact and Australians artefact, according to their respective dictionaries.[112] Artefact reflects Arte-fact(um), the Latin source.[113]
artisan artisan,
artizan
axe ax,
axe
Both the noun and verb. The word comes from Old English æx. In the US, both spellings are acceptable and commonly used. The Oxford English Dictionary states that "the spelling ax is better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe, which became prevalent in the 19th century; but it ["ax"] is now disused in Britain".[114]
brasier brasier,
brazier[115][116]
camomile, chamomile chamomile, camomile The word derives, via French and Latin, from Greek χαμαίμηλον ("earth apple"). The more common British spelling "camomile", corresponding to the immediate French source, is the older in English, while the spelling "chamomile" more accurately corresponds to the ultimate Latin and Greek source.[117] In the UK, according to the OED, "the spelling cha- is chiefly in pharmacy, after Latin; that with ca- is literary and popular". In the US chamomile dominates in all senses.
cheque check In banking. Hence pay cheque and paycheck. Accordingly, the North American term for what is known as a current account or cheque account in the UK is spelled chequing account in Canada and checking account in the US. Some American financial institutions, notably American Express, prefer cheque, but this is merely a trademarking affectation.
chequer checker As in chequerboard/checkerboard, chequered/checkered flag etc. In Canada as in the US.[118]
chilli chili,
chile
The original Mexican Spanish word is spelled chile.[118][119] In Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, chile and chilli are given as also variants.
cipher, cypher cipher
cosy cozy In all senses (adjective, noun, verb).
dyke dike
domicile domicile,
domicil[120]
doughnut doughnut, donut In the US, both are used, with donut indicated as a variant of doughnut.[121] In the UK, donut is indicated as an American variant for doughnut.[122]
draught draft British English usually uses draft for all senses as the verb;[123] for a preliminary version of a document; for an order of payment (bank draft), and for military conscription (although this last meaning is not as common as in American English). It uses draught for drink from a cask (draught beer); for animals used for pulling heavy loads (draught horse); for a current of air; for a ship's minimum depth of water to float; and for the game draughts, known as checkers in America. It uses either draught or draft for a plan or sketch (but almost always draughtsman in this sense; a draftsman drafts legal documents). American English uses draft in all these cases, including draftsman (male or female) (although in regard to drinks, draught is sometimes found). Canada uses both systems; in Australia, draft is used for technical drawings, is accepted for the "current of air" meaning, and is preferred by professionals in the nautical sense.[124] The pronunciation is always the same for all meanings within a dialect (RP /ˈdrɑːft/, General American /ˈdræft/). The spelling draught is older; draft appeared first in the late 16th century.[125]
gauge gage[126]
gauge
Both spellings have existed since Middle English.[127]
gauntlet gauntlet, gantlet When meaning "ordeal", in the phrase running the ga(u)ntlet, some American style guides prefer gantlet.[128] This spelling is unused in Britain[129] and less usual in America than gauntlet. The word is an alteration of earlier gantlope by folk etymology with gauntlet ("armored glove"), always spelled thus.
gazelle gazelle,
gazel[130][131]
glycerine glycerin, glycerine Scientists use the term glycerol, but both spellings are used sporadically in the US.
grey gray Grey became the established British spelling in the 20th century, pace Dr Johnson and others,[132] and it is but a minor variant in American English, according to dictionaries. Canadians tend to prefer grey. The non-cognate greyhound was never grayhound. Both Grey and Gray are found in proper names everywhere in the English-speaking world. The two spellings are of equal antiquity, and the Oxford English Dictionary states that "each of the current spellings has some analogical support".[133]
hearken harken
jail,
gaol
jail In the UK, gaol and gaoler are used sometimes, apart from literary usage, chiefly to describe a medieval building and guard. Both spellings go back to Middle English: gaol was a loanword from Norman French, while jail was a loanword from central (Parisian) French. In Middle English the two spellings were associated with different pronunciations. In current English the word, however spelt, is always given the pronunciation originally associated only with the jail spelling (/ˈl/). The survival of the gaol spelling in British English is "due to statutory and official tradition".[134]
kerb curb For the noun designating the edge of a roadway (or the edge of a British pavement/ American sidewalk/ Australian footpath). Curb is the older spelling, and in the UK and US it is still the proper spelling for the verb meaning restrain.[135]
(kilo)gram,
(kilo)gramme
(kilo)gram (Kilo)gramme is used sometimes in the UK but never in the US. (Kilo)gram is the only spelling used by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.
liquorice licorice The American spelling is nearer to the Old French source licorece, which is ultimately from Greek glykyrrhiza.[136] The British spelling was influenced by the unrelated word liquor.[137] Licorice prevails in Canada and it is common in Australia, but it is rarely found in the UK. Liquorice is all but nonexistent in the US. ("Chiefly British", according to dictionaries).[138]
mollusc mollusk, mollusc The related adjective is normally molluscan in all forms of English.
mould mold In all senses of the word. The American spelling is the older of the two.[139] In Canada, both words have wide currency.[140] When speaking of the noun describing a form for casting a shape, the US will also use the "mould" spelling, but defaults to "mold" when referring to the fruiting bodies of tiny fungi.
moult molt
neurone, neuron neuron
omelette omelet,
omelette
The omelet spelling is the older of the two, in spite of the etymology (French omelette).[141] Omelette prevails in Canada and in Australia.
opaque opaque,
opake
The opake spelling has existed since Middle English and was used in Webster's dictionaries.[142][143]
partisan partisan,
partizan
phantasm phantasm,
fantasm[144][145]
phantom phantom,
fantom[146][147]
The fantom spelling is the older of the two and has existed since Middle English.[148][149]
phoney phony The American spelling is the older of the two.[150] The word originated in America and made its widespread appearance in Britain during the Phoney War. Phony is famously used often in The Catcher in the Rye.
plough plow Both spellings have existed since Middle English. The OED records several dozen variants. In the UK, plough has been the standard spelling for about 300 years.[151] Although plow was Noah Webster's pick, plough continued to have some currency in the US, as the entry in Webster's Third (1961) implies. Newer dictionaries label plough as "chiefly British". The word snowplough/snowplow, originally an Americanism, predates Webster's reform and was first recorded as snow plough. Canada has both plough and plow,[152] although snowplough is much rarer there than snowplow. In the US, "plough" sometimes describes a horsedrawn kind while "plow" refers to a gasoline (petrol) powered kind.
rack and ruin wrack and ruin Several words like "rack" and "wrack" have been conflated, with both spellings thus accepted as variants for senses connected to torture (orig. rack) and ruin (orig. wrack, cf. wreck)[153] In "(w)rack and ruin", the W-less variant is now prevalent in the UK but not the US.[154]
rhyme rhyme,
rime[155][156]
sceptic (-al, -ism) skeptic (-al, -ism) The American spelling, akin to Greek, is the earliest known spelling in English.[157] It was preferred by Fowler, and is used by many Canadians, where it is the earlier form.[158] Sceptic also pre-dates the European settlement of the US, and it follows the French sceptique and Latin scepticus. In the mid-18th century, Dr Johnson's dictionary listed skeptic without comment or alternative, but this form has never been popular in the UK;[159] sceptic, an equal variant in the old Webster's Third (1961), has now become "chiefly British". Australians generally follow the British usage (with the notable exception of the Australian Skeptics). All of these versions are pronounced with a hard "c", though in French that letter is silent and the word is pronounced like septique.
smoulder smolder The American spelling is the older of the two and has existed since Middle English.[148]
stead(fast) stead(fast),
sted(fast)[160][161]
storey story Level of a building. The plurals are storeys and stories respectively. The letter "e" is used in the UK and Canada to differentiate between levels of buildings and a story as in a literary work.[162] Story is the earlier spelling. The Oxford English Dictionary states that this word is "probably the same word as story [in its meaning of "narrative"] though the development of sense is obscure.[163]
sulphate sulfate,
sulphate
sulphur sulfur,
sulphur
Sulfur is the international standard in the sciences (IUPAC), and it is supported by the UK's RSC.[164] During the Middle English period the word was spelt with an f.[148] However, sulphur was preferred by Dr Johnson. It is still used by British and Irish scientists, and it is still actively taught in British and Irish schools. It prevails in Canada and Australia, and it is also found in some American place names (e.g. Sulphur, Louisiana and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia). American English usage guides suggest sulfur for technical usage, and both sulphur and sulfur in common usage and in literature.[165][166] The variation between f and ph spellings is also found in the word's ultimate source: Latin sulfur, sulphur.[167]
telegram,
telegramme
telegram Telegramme is used sometimes in the UK but never in the US.
through through,
thru[168]
throughout throughout,
thruout[169]
towards,
toward
toward,
towards
tyre tire The outer portion of a wheel. In Canada as in the US. Tire is the older spelling, but both were used in the 15th and 16th centuries (for a metal tire). Tire became the settled spelling in the 17th century but tyre was revived in the UK in the 19th century for rubber / pneumatic tyres, possibly because it was used in some patent documents,[170] though many continued to use tire for the iron variety. The Times newspaper was still using tire as late as 1905. For the verb meaning "to grow weary" both American and British English use only the tire spelling.
vice vise, vice The two-jawed workbench tool. Americans and Canadians retain the very old distinction between vise (the tool) and vice (the sin, and also the Latin prefix meaning a "deputy"), both of which are vice in the UK and Australia.[171] Thus, Americans have Vice-Admiral, Vice-President, and Vice-Principal, but never Vise- for any one of these.
vineyard vineyard,
vinyard[172]
visor visor,
vizor[173]
woe(ful) woe(ful),
wo(ful)[174]
yoghurt,
yogurt
yogurt,
yoghurt
Yoghurt is an also-ran in the US, as is yoghourt in the UK. Although the Oxford Dictionaries have always preferred yogurt, in current British usage yoghurt seems to be prevalent. In Canada, yogurt prevails, despite the Canadian Oxford preferring yogourt, which has the advantage of being bilingual (English and French).[175] In Australia as in the UK. Whatever the spelling is, the word has different pronunciations: in the UK /ˈjɒɡɚt/ or /ˈjoʊɡɚt/, only /ˈjoʊɡɚrt/ in America, Ireland, and Australia. The word comes from the Turkish language word yoğurt.[176] The voiced velar fricative represented by ğ in the modern Turkish (Latinic) alphabet was traditionally written gh in romanizations of the Ottoman Turkish (Arabic) alphabet used before 1928.

Compounds and hyphens

British English often prefers hyphenated compounds, such as counter-attack, whereas American English discourages the use of hyphens in compounds where there is no compelling reason, so counterattack is much more common.[citation needed] Many dictionaries do not point out such differences. Canadian and Australian usage is mixed, although Commonwealth writers generally hyphenate compounds of the form noun plus phrase (such as editor-in-chief).[177] Commander-in-chief is dominant in all forms of English.

  • any more or anymore: In sense "any longer", the single-word form is usual in North America and Australia but unusual elsewhere, at least in formal writing.[178] Other senses always have the two-word form; thus Americans distinguish "I couldn't love you anymore [so I left you]" from "I couldn't love you any more [than I already do]". In Hong Kong English, any more is always two words.[179]
  • for ever or forever: Traditional British English usage makes a distinction between for ever, meaning for eternity (or a very long time into the future), as in "If you are waiting for income tax to be abolished you will probably have to wait for ever"; and forever, meaning continually, always, as in "They are forever arguing".[180] In contemporary British usage, however, forever prevails in the "for eternity" sense as well,[181] in spite of several style guides maintaining the distinction.[182] American writers usually use forever regardless of which sense they intend (although forever in the sense of "continually" is comparatively rare in American English, having been displaced by always).
  • near by or nearby: Some British writers make the distinction between the adverbial near by, which is written as two words, as in, "No one was near by"; and the adjectival nearby, which is written as one, as in, "The nearby house".[183] In American English, the one-word spelling is standard for both forms.

Acronyms and abbreviations

Proper names formed as proper acronyms are often rendered in title case by Commonwealth writers, but usually as upper case by Americans: for example, Nasa / NASA or Unicef / UNICEF.[184] This does not apply to most pure initialisms, such as US, IBM, or PRC (the People's Republic of China). However, it is occasionally done for some in the UK, such as Pc (Police Constable).[185]

Contractions, where the final letter is present, are often written in British English without full stops/periods (Mr, Mrs, Dr, St, Ave). Abbreviations where the final letter is not present generally do take full stops/periods (such as vol., etc., i.e., ed.); British English shares this convention with the French: Mlle, Mme, Dr, Ste, but M. for Monsieur. In American and Canadian English, abbreviations like St., Ave., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., and Jr., always require periods. Some initials are usually upper case in America but lower case in Britain: liter/litre and its compounds ("2 L or 25 mL" vs "2 l or 25 ml");[186][187] and ante meridiem and post meridiem (10 P.M. or 10 PM vs 10 p.m. or 10 pm).[188][189][190] Both AM/PM and a.m./p.m. are acceptable in American English, though AM/PM is more common.

Punctuation

The use of quotation marks, also called inverted commas, is very slightly complicated by the fact that there are two types: single quotation marks (') and double quotation marks ("). As a general rule, British usage has in the past usually preferred single quotation marks for ordinary use, but double quotation marks are now increasingly common; American usage has always preferred double quotation marks.[191]

The convention used to be, and in American English still is, to put full stops (periods) and commas inside the quotation marks, irrespective of the sense. British English has moved away from this style while American English has retained it. British style now prefers to punctuate according to the sense, in which punctuation marks only appear inside quotation marks if they were there in the original. Moreover, formal British English practice requires a closing full stop to be put inside the quotation marks if the quoted item is a complete sentence that ends where the main sentence ends, but it is common to see the stop outside the closing quotation marks.[192]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Scragg, Donald (1974). A history of English spelling. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. pp. 82–83. ISBN 9780064961387. "Johnson's dictionary became the accepted standard for private spelling...of a literate Englishman...during the nineteenth century...Webster had more success in influencing the development of American usage than Johnson had with British usage." 
  2. ^ Clark, 2009.
  3. ^ Chambers, 1998.
  4. ^ a b c Webster's Third, p. 24a.
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, colour, color.
  6. ^ a b Onions, CT, ed (1987) [1933]. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Third Edition (1933) with corrections (1975) ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 370. ISBN 0 19 861126 9. 
  7. ^ a b Peters, p. 397.
  8. ^ Johnson 1755—preface
  9. ^ Mencken, H L (1919). The American Language. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0394400763. http://www.bartleby.com/185/32.html. 
  10. ^ Staff. "The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674–1913". Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield. http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/. Retrieved 19 June 2008. 
  11. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, honour, honor.
  12. ^ Baldrige, Letitia (1990). Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to the New Manners for the '90s: A Complete Guide to Etiquette. Rawson. p. 214. ISBN 0-892-56320-6. 
  13. ^ "Australian Labor: History". ALP.org.au. http://www.alp.org.au/australian-labor/labor-history/. 
  14. ^ Venezky, Richard L. (2001). "-re versus -er". In Algeo, John. The Cambridge History of the English Language. VI: English in North America. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 353. ISBN 0-521-26479-0. 
  15. ^ Howard, Philip (1984). The State of the Language—English Observed. London: Hamish Hamilton. p. 148. ISBN 0241113466. 
  16. ^ a b Although acre was spelt æcer in Old English and aker in Middle English, the acre spelling of Middle French was introduced in the 15th century. Similarly, loover was respelt in the 17th century by influence of the unrelated Louvre. (See OED, s.v. acre and louvre)
  17. ^ From the OED cites, Chaucer used both forms, but the last usages of the "re" form were in the early 1700s. The Oxford English Dictionary: 1989 edition.
  18. ^ Except in a 1579 usage (Oxford English Dictionary: 1989 edition).
  19. ^ Gove, Philip, ed (1989). "-er/-re". Webster's third new international dictionary of the English language. 2 (3 ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam Webster. pp. 24a. ISBN 9780877793021. 
  20. ^ Robin Pogrebin (3 September 2003). "Proposing an American Theater Downtown". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F06EED9173BF93AA3575AC0A9659C8B63. Retrieved 22 September 2008. 
  21. ^ "The American National Theatre (ANT)". ANT. 2008–2009. http://www.americannationaltheatre.org/. Retrieved 22 September 2008. 
  22. ^ "The Kennedy Center". John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. http://www.kennedy-center.org/. Retrieved 22 September 2008. 
  23. ^ "Cinemark Theatres". Centurytheaters.com. http://www.centurytheaters.com/. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  24. ^ accoutre
  25. ^ accouter
  26. ^ Peters, p 461.
  27. ^ Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers of Australian Government Publications, Third Edition, Revised by John Pitson, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1978, page 10, "In general, follow the spellings given in the latest edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
  28. ^ Peters (2004: 135)
  29. ^ 1989 Oxford English Dictionary:connexion, connection.
  30. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:complection. New York: Houghton Mifflin. 2000. http://www.bartleby.com/cgi-bin/texis/webinator/sitesearch?FILTER=col61&query=complection&x=0&y=0. Retrieved 12 May 2007 
  31. ^ "complected". Merriam-Webster's dictionary of English usage. Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster, Inc. 1994. p. 271. ISBN 0-87779-132-5. "not an error...simply an Americanism" 
  32. ^ "complect, v.". Oxford English Dictionary. 
  33. ^ Peters, p. 298.
  34. ^ a b c "Are spellings like 'privatize' and 'organize' Americanisms?". AskOxford.com. 2006. http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutspelling/ize?view=uk. 
  35. ^ Peters, p. 298: "[With] contemporary British writers the ise spellings outnumber those with ize in the ratio of about 3:2" (emphasis as original)
  36. ^ Oxford English Dictionary "-ise1"
  37. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, -ize.
  38. ^ Hargraves, p. 22.
  39. ^ a b Allen, Robert, ed (2009). Pocket Fowler's Modern English Usage. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 354. "may be legitimately spelt with either -ize or -ise throughout the English-speaking world (except in America, where -ize is always used)...Cambridge University Press and others prefer -ise" 
  40. ^ "prize". Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. Also, "prize". Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Ed.
  41. ^ According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Ed.: prise is a "chiefly Brit var of PRIZE".
  42. ^ Peters, p. 441
  43. ^ Peters, p. 446.
  44. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, analyse, -ze, v. [1].
  45. ^ Both the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and American Heritage Dictionary have catalog as the main headword and catalogue as an equal variant.
  46. ^ Peters, p. 236.
  47. ^ MSDN C#.NET OpenFileDialog Class
  48. ^ Peters, p. 36.
  49. ^ Aronson, Jeff (26 July 1997). "When I use a word...:Oe no!". British Medical Journal 315 (7102). http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/315/7102/0/h. 
  50. ^ New Oxford Dictionary of English.
  51. ^ Peters, p. 20.
  52. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary, copyright 1993 by Merriam-Webster, Inc.
  53. ^ The Economist Style Guide, copyright 2005 by The Economist Newspaper Ltd
  54. ^ Webster's Third, p. 23a.
  55. ^ Wilson, Kenneth G. (1993). "subpoena, subpena (n., v.)". The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231069898. http://www.bartleby.com/68/6/5806.html. Retrieved 8 November 2007. 
  56. ^ Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, airplane.
  57. ^ Peters, p. 20, p. 389.
  58. ^ Peters, p. 338.
  59. ^ a b Peters, p. 309.
  60. ^ Cf. Oxford English Dictionary, traveller, traveler.
  61. ^ Peters, p. 581
  62. ^ Zorn, Eric (8 June 1997). "Errant Spelling: Moves for simplification turn Inglish into another langwaj". Chicago Tribune. pp. Section 3A page 14. http://www.spellingsociety.org/news/media/chicago2.php. Retrieved 17 March 2007. 
  63. ^ Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, jewellery UK, American jewelry
  64. ^ Peters, p. 283
  65. ^ Peters, p. 501.
  66. ^ Peters, p. 22.
  67. ^ Peters, p. 480. Also National Routeing Guide
  68. ^ In American English, swingeing is sometimes spelled swinging see American Heritage Dictionary entry, and the reader has to discern from the context which word and pronunciation is meant.
  69. ^ a b British National Corpus
  70. ^ Peters, p. 7
  71. ^ Peters, p. 303.
  72. ^ Merriam-Webster Online. . Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  73. ^ Howarth, Lynne C; and others (14 June 1999). ""Executive summary" from review of "International Standard Bibliographic Description for Electronic Resources"". American Library Association. http://www.library.yale.edu/cataloging/aacrer/tf-harm21.htm. Retrieved 30 April 2007. 
  74. ^ Peters, p. 282.
  75. ^ "Chambers | Free English Dictionary". Chambersharrap.co.uk. http://www.chambersharrap.co.uk/chambers/features/chref/chref.py/main?title=21st&query=inquiry. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  76. ^ Peters, p. 285
  77. ^ Merriam-Webster Online. . Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  78. ^ Peters, 51 "assurance or insurance"
  79. ^ Peters, p. 340.
  80. ^ a b Peters, p. 443.
  81. ^ Bureau International des Poids et Mesures, 2006, p. 124.
  82. ^ The Metric Conversion Act of 1985 gives the Secretary of Commerce of the US the responsibility of interpreting or modifying the SI for use in the US. The Secretary of Commerce delegated this authority to the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (Turner, 2008). In 2008, the NIST published the US version (Taylor and Thompson, 2008a) of the English text of the eighth edition of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures publication Le Système International d'Unités (SI) (BIPM, 2006). In the NIST publication, the spellings "meter", "liter", and "deka" are used rather than "metre", "litre", and "deca" as in the original BIPM English text (Taylor and Thompson, 2008a, p. iii). The Director of the NIST officially recognised this publication, together with Taylor and Thompson (2008b), as the "legal interpretation" of the SI for the United States (Turner, 2008).
  83. ^ a b etymonline.com
  84. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, airplane, draft revision March 2008; airplane is labelled "chiefly North American"
  85. ^ British National Corpus. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  86. ^ Merriam-Webster online, aerodrome. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  87. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, airdrome.
  88. ^ merriam-webster.com
  89. ^ History & Etymology of Aluminium
  90. ^ Peters, p. 32.
  91. ^ Murray, James A. H. (1880). Spelling Reform. Annual address of the President of the Philological Society. Bath: Isaac Pitman. p. 5. http://www.archive.org/stream/drjhmurrayonspel00murr#page/5/mode/1up/search/behove. Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  92. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. [2]
  93. ^ OED, shivaree
  94. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, furore.
  95. ^ Peters, p. 221.
  96. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Grotty; Grody
  97. ^ Peters, p. 242
  98. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, mom and mam
  99. ^ Added by Symphony on 15 Oct. 2009 (15 October 2009). "Things I don't Understand: Part 3 – Canada!". giantbomb. http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/symphony/things-i-dont-understand-part-3-canada/30-33430/. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  100. ^ Peters, p. 364.
  101. ^ Merriam Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, naïveté and naivety.
  102. ^ OED, s.v. 'pyjamas'
  103. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, persnickety
  104. ^ Peters, p. 487
  105. ^ In Webster's New World College Dictionary, scalawag is lemmatized without alternative, while scallawag and scallywag are defined by cross-reference to it. All of them are marked as "originally American".
  106. ^ See, for example, the November 2006 BMA document titled Selection for Specialty Training
  107. ^ Peters, p. 510.
  108. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,ake
  109. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/search/_words.word,ake
  110. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/aker
  111. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, artefact.
  112. ^ Peters, p. 49.
  113. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. March 2009. 
  114. ^ Oxford English Dictionary online edition: entry "axe | ax"
  115. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/brazier
  116. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/brazier
  117. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online edition, entry "camomile | chamomile"
  118. ^ a b Peters, p. 104.
  119. ^ Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-4-19.
  120. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/domicil
  121. ^ Merriam-Webster Online. . Retrieved 1 January 2008.
  122. ^ Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. . Retrieved 1 January 2008.
  123. ^ "draught". Concise OED. http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/draught. Retrieved 1 April 2007. 
  124. ^ Peters, p. 165.
  125. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, draught.
  126. ^ "gage.Merriam-Webster.com
  127. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary: gage
  128. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (1998). A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. New York: OUP. p. 313. ISBN 0195078535. 
  129. ^ "gauntlet2". Concise OED. http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/gauntlet_2?view=uk. 
  130. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/gazel
  131. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/gazel
  132. ^ Peters, p. 235
  133. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online edition: entry "grey | gray"
  134. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online edition: entry "jail | gaol"
  135. ^ tiscali.reference. Retrieved on 10 March 2007.
  136. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary: licorice
  137. ^ Ernout, Alfred; Meillet, Antoine (2001). Dictionnaire etymologique de la langue latine. Paris: Klincksieck. p. 362. ISBN 2252033592. 
  138. ^ Peters, p. 321.
  139. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online edition: entry "mould | mold"
  140. ^ Peters, p. 360
  141. ^ Peters, p. 392.
  142. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,opake
  143. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/search/_words.word,opake
  144. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/fantasm
  145. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/fantasm
  146. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/fantom
  147. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/fantom
  148. ^ a b c A Concise Dictionary of Middle English
  149. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary: phantom
  150. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, phoney, phony
  151. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, plough, plow.
  152. ^ Peters, p. 230.
  153. ^ Maven's word of the day: rack/wrack
  154. ^ Cald Rack
  155. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/rime
  156. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/rime
  157. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online edition: entry "sceptic | skeptic"
  158. ^ Peters, p. 502.
  159. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, sceptic, skeptic.
  160. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,sted
  161. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/sted
  162. ^ Peters, Pam (2002). "storey or story". The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 517. ISBN 0-521-62181-x. 
  163. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online edition: entry "story | storey"
  164. ^ Royal Society of Chemistry 1992 policy change
  165. ^ "The spelling sulfur predominates in United States technical usage, while both sulfur and sulphur are common in general usage. British usage tends to favor sulphur for all applications. The same pattern is seen in most of the words derived from sulfur." Usage note, Merriam-Webster Online. . Retrieved 1 January 2008.
  166. ^ The contrasting spellings of the chemical elements Al and S mean that the American spelling aluminum sulfide becomes aluminum sulphide in Canada, and as aluminium sulphide in older British usage.
  167. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online edition: entry "sulphur | sulfur"
  168. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/thru
  169. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/thruout
  170. ^ Peters, p. 553.
  171. ^ Peters, p. 566.
  172. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/vinyard
  173. ^ http://1913.mshaffer.com/d/word/vizor
  174. ^ http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/word/woful
  175. ^ Peters, p. 587. Yogourt is an accepted variant in French of the more normal Standard French yaourt.
  176. ^ Merriam-Webster Online – Yogurt entry
  177. ^ Peters, p. 258
  178. ^ Peters, p. 41.
  179. ^ Bunton, David. Common Englsh Errors in Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Longman. p. 6. ISBN 0582999146. 
  180. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, for ever.
  181. ^ AskOxford: forever. Retrieved 24 June 2008. Cf. Peters, p. 214.
  182. ^ For example, The Times, The Guardian, The Economist. Retrieved 24 June 2008.
  183. ^ The Columbia Guide to Standard American English
  184. ^ Marsh, David (14 July 2004). The Guardian Stylebook. Atlantic Books. ISBN 1843549913. http://www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide/page/0,,184844,00.html. Retrieved 9 April 2007. "acronyms: take initial cap: Aids, Isa, Mori, Nato" 
  185. ^ See for example "Pc bitten on face in Tube attack". BBC. 31 March 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6513829.stm. Retrieved 9 April 2007. 
  186. ^ "Units outside the SI". Essentials of the SI. NIST. http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/outside.html. Retrieved 22 October 2009. "although both l and L are internationally accepted symbols for the liter, to avoid this risk the preferred symbol for use in the United States is L" 
  187. ^ "Core learning in mathematics: Year 4". Review of the 1999 Framework. DCSF. 2006. p. 4. http://downloads.nationalstrategies.co.uk/pdf/8ba397de2eb514799b8b85478f0df567.pdf. Retrieved 22 October 2009. "Use, read and write standard metric units (km, m, cm, mm, kg, g, l, ml), including their abbreviations" 
  188. ^ "PM". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. 2009. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/PM. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  189. ^ "P.M.". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Houghton Mifflin. 2000. http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/P.M.. 
  190. ^ "What is the correct or more usual written form when writing the time – a.m., am, or A.M.?". AskOxford. Oxford University Press. http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/usage/time. Retrieved 21 October 2009. 
  191. ^ Trask, Larry (1997). "Quotation Marks and Direct Quotations". Guide to Punctuation. University of Sussex. http://www.informatics.sussex.ac.uk/department/docs/punctuation/node30.html. Retrieved 9 December 2010. 
  192. ^ Quinion, Michael (2010). "Punctuation and Quotation Marks". World Wide Words. http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-pun1.htm. Retrieved 9 December 2010. 

References

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • American and British English pronunciation differences — Differences in pronunciation between American English (AmE) and British English (BrE) can be divided into: * differences in accent (i.e. phoneme inventory and realisation ). Accents vary widely within AmE and within BrE, so the features… …   Wikipedia

  • American and British English differences — For the Wikipedia editing policy on use of regional variants in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Manual of style#National varieties of English. This is one of a series of articles about the differences between British English and American English, which …   Wikipedia

  • Differences between American and British English (vocabulary) — Differences between American and British English American English …   Wikipedia

  • English spelling reform — is the collective term for various campaigns and efforts to change the spelling of the English language to make it simpler and more rationally consistent. There exists a small scale movement among amateur and professional linguists, but one with… …   Wikipedia

  • Differences between General American and Received Pronunciation — Differences between American and British English American English …   Wikipedia

  • British English — or UK English (BrE, BE, en GB [en GB is the language code for British English , as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639 1 and ISO 3166 1 alpha 2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).] ) is the broad term used to distinguish the forms… …   Wikipedia

  • British and Malaysian English differences — This article outlines the differences between Malaysian English or more popularly Manglish, the form of street Malaysian English spoken by most Malaysians and British English, which for the purposes of this article is assumed to be the form of… …   Wikipedia

  • English Spelling Society — Contents 1 Aims 2 Specific reform systems 3 Spelling bee protests 4 …   Wikipedia

  • Cultural relationship between the Welsh and the English — The relationship between the Welsh and English within Great Britain is mostly characterised by tolerance, respect, and an intermixing of people and cultures. However, elements of mutual mistrust or dislike, and occasionally overt racism, also… …   Wikipedia

  • English orthography — is the alphabetic spelling system used by the English language. English orthography, like other alphabetic orthographies, uses a set of rules that generally governs how speech sounds are represented in writing. English has relatively complicated… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”