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Unit 36: British and American English spelling - the differences
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Unit 36: British / American spelling differences

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Unit 36 - British and American English spelling - the differences

British English spelling American english spelling

As you learned in the last unit, only one attempt to simplify the English language spelling system has really succeeded and that was the one by Noah Webster whose ‘American Dictionary of the English Language’ was published in 1828. It was made to show that because America was no longer ruled by the British, its language too should be independent. It also made some of the spellings more logical.

Changes involved shortening words and changing spellings that including seemingly unnecessary letters:

Spelling change
British British English spelling
American American English spelling
our endings change to or colour color
re endings change to theatre theater
ogue endings change to og catalogue catalog
l endings do not double travelling traveling
ae and oe words change to e encyclopaedia encyclopedia
ise endings change to ize apologise apologize

In a few cases, the changes are more complicated, for example:

some -ce endings change to -se: licence > license
some -se endings change to -ce: practise > practice

British spellings may be accepted in the US and vice-versa, however many people are at pains to retain the distinctions between the two. It is useful to know the differences so that you can trace any future changes that may happen with regards to bringing the two together. This unit shows you the differences and includes some activities to test your knowledge of the different spelling variants.

Are American spellings becoming the norm?

You will have seen some of these differences identified in the other Spellzone units.

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