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American English vs British English: Six Key Spelling Differences


July 4th marks Independence Day in America. You can read more about why this day is celebrated here.

The internet means choosing whether to use American spelling or English spelling no longer just depends on what country you live in. More and more people work with colleagues from all over the world and different institutes, organisations, and publications have different style guides. This means it is likely that you will have to change between American and British spelling every now and then.

While there are some one-offs that are best to learn as you go along (read more about these in Unit 36 of Spellzone), here are six general spelling rules to help you learn the key differences between American and British spelling:

Words that end in our in British English end in or in American English

British English American English
armour
behaviour
candour
clamour
colour
demeanour
endeavour
favour
favourite
flavour
glamour
harbour
honour
humour
labour
neighbour
odour
rancour
rigour
rumour
saviour
savour
savoury
splendour
valour
vapour
vigour
armor
behavior
candor
clamor
color
demeanor
endeavor
favor
favorite
flavor
glamor
harbor
honor
humor
labor
neighbor
odor
rancor
rigor
rumor
savior
savor
savory
splendor
valor
vapor
vigor

Words that end in re in British English end in er in American

British English American English
calibre
centre
fibre
litre
lustre
manoeuvre
meagre
metre
sabre
sceptre
sombre
spectre
theatre
caliber
center
fiber
liter
luster
maneuver
meager
meter
saber
scepter
somber
specter
theater

Exceptions include: acre
massacre
mediocre
ogre

Words that end in ogue in British English end in og in American English

British English American English
analogue
dialogue
catalogue
epilogue
monologue
prologue
travelogue
analog
dialog
catalog
epilog
monolog
prolog
travelog

Note: ogue endings are also used in American English

For words that end in l in British English, do not double the l when adding a suffix in American English

British English American English
cancelled
counsellor
equalled
fuelling
fuelled
grovelling
jeweller
jewellery
levelled
libelled
marvellous
modelling
panelled
quarrelling
revelled
woollen
canceled
counselor
equaled
fueling
fueled
groveling
jeweler
jewelery
leveled
libeled
marvelous
modeling
paneled
quarreling
reveled
woolen

Words with ae or oe in British English require just an e in American English

British English American English
diarrhoea
oestrogen
foetus
manoeuvre
anaemia
caesarean
gynaecology
haemorrhage
leukaemia
palaeontology
paediatric

diarrhea
estrogen
fetus
maneuver
anemia
cesarean
gynecology
hemorrhage
leukemia
paleontology
pediatric

Words that end with ise in British English end with ize in American English

British English American English
authorise
capitalise
characterise
civilise
colonise
criticise
emphasise
equalise
mobilise
naturalise
organise
popularise
realise
recognise
satirise
standardise
symbolise
vaporise
authorize
capitalize
characterize
civilize
colonize
criticize
emphasize
equalize
mobilize
naturalize
organize
popularize
realize
recognize
satirize
standardize
symbolize
vaporize

Those of you who frequently read our blog will certainly not be surprised to hear that these rules have many exceptions. Read more about them here.

You can also find our other posts on American English here:

We hope you have a festive day!


03 Jul 2018
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Terrie Penrose-Toms, Casterton College

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