Differences Between American and British Spelling

When you’re writing, it’s helpful to know where your client is from so that you can follow their preferred spelling. American spelling in used in the US, British spelling in used in other English speaking countries, and both versions are common in Canada. If your spell checker is set on American English it will generally not recognize British spellings, and vice versa.

-Or/-Our

Words that are spelled -or in American English are spelled -our in British English.

favorite favourite

honor honour

color colour

-Er/-Re

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

theater theatre

center centre

liter litre

-Ize/-Ise

Words that are spelled -ize in American English are spelled -ise in British English.

pluralize pluralise

democratize democratise

civilization civilisation

-Yze/-Yse

Similarly, words that end in -yze in American English end in -yse in British English.

analyze analyse

paralyze paralyse

catalyze catalyse

-Ense/-Ence

Words that end in -ense in American English end in -ence in British English.

defense defence

license licence

pretense pretence

-Og/-Ogue

In American spelling, words can end in -og or -ogue. In British spelling they always end in -ogue.

catalog catalogue

analog analogue

epilog epilogue

-L/-Ll

Verbs that end in a vowel + -l do not double the “l” when adding suffixes in American English. The “l” is doubled in British English.

traveled travelled

pedaled pedalled

canceled cancelled

-Ed/-T

The past tense of single syllable words is formed by adding -ed in American English. It is formed by adding -t in British English.

spelled spelt

learned learnt

dreamed dreamt

Single/Double Vowels

Some words that are spelled with a single vowel in American English use two vowels British English.

leukemia leukaemia

maneuver manoeuver

encyclopedia encyclopaedia

Completely Different Spellings

Some words are just spelled differently in American and British English:

airplane areoplane

check cheque

curb kerb

jail gaol

program programme

pyjamas pajamas

tire tyre

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