Differences between UK and US spelling.
They break down into ten or eleven types:
· -ise vs -ize
· -ll- vs -l-
· (final -l vs final -ll)
· -ae- vs -e-
· -oe- vs -e-
· -our vs -or
· -tre vs -ter
· -gramme vs -gram
· -logue vs -log
· -ence vs -ense
Here is a comprehensive collection that may come in useful if you find you need to "Briticise" your American spelling.
In each sub-headings below, the UK spelling is first, then the US spelling.
-ise vs -ize
This includes words like agonise, terrorise, analyse and paralyse. However, there are plenty of words that Americans spell -ise for e.g. surprise, advertise, improvise.
-ll- vs -l-
This is a strange category that actually encompasses -ller, -lling, -lled, and related constructions
UK spellings like funnelled, controller, and jewellery fit the category but don't look too odd to Americans because of enrolled, fulfilled, and similar words.
Panel follows this form with paneled in the US and panelled in the UK. However, it's just the opposite for empanel. It becomes empanelled in the US and empaneled in the UK! And, as any frequent flier knows, cancelled and canceled exist pretty much equally in US English.
(Final -l vs final -ll)
Words that end in -ll in the US end in -l in the UK.
So Americans write appall, instill, and enroll, while Brits write appal, instil, and enrol. Both write awful, harmful, stressful, etc. despite the obvious connection to full.
Before you say, "Aha! Americans double the L on the end when it's a two-syllable word with the accent on the second syllable.
What about excel, propel, and repel?
Brits write fulfil, but also refill.
To quote the great English poet Taupin:
It's sad. So sad. It's a sad, sad situation. And it's growing more and more absurd.
-ae- vs -e-
Aeon, haemorrhage, and paedophile look funny to Americans, who are used to seeing eon, hemorrhage, and pedophile.
-oe- vs -e-
Similar to -ae-, -oe- words like foetal and diarrhoea look strange and foreign to Americans. The -oe- nearly always makes the long E sound (manoeuvre is an exception). On the other hand, Americans generally write subpoena, amoeba, and onomatopoeia, even tho valid non-oe- constructions exist (that is, they are valid but not preferred).
-our vs -or
The "cosmetic U," as linguists call it, comes from Old French and wore out its welcome early. Americans have done without it in words like colour and favour for a long time, but a few examples linger on: Americans write glamour.
We might expand this category slightly to include mould, moustache, and similar words.
-tre vs -ter
Some Americans love to affect the Anglo-French -re spellings for centre and theatre, yet wouldn't be caught dead writing kilometre or lustre. This is probably the best-known difference, at least among Americans, yet only about 40 words fall into the category, most of which are derivatives of metre and litre.
We might broaden this category slightly to include calibre, manoeuvre, sabre, sepulchre, sombre, and their derivatives.
-gramme vs -gram
This includes programme and kilogramme. Programme happens to be changing to the American spelling, largely influenced by the term computer program and other -gram words.
-logue vs -log
The Brits still stick to the old spellings of catalogue and monologue.
-ence vs -ense
The -ence root words : defence, licence, offence and their ilk.
Fewer than 20 -ense words are found in both types of English (sense, dense, immense, etc.).
In UK English, license is the noun while licence is the verb, whereas in US English, license does double duty.
A number of other spelling differences don't fall into any of the other categories.
- aluminium vs aluminum
- behoves vs behooves
- bevvy vs bevy
- cheque vs check
- cypher vs cipher
- connexion vs connection (connexion is dying out in the UK)
- draught vs draft
- gaol vs jail (gaol is largely converted to the US spelling, even in England)
- omelette vs omelet (you'll see both in the US)
- plough vs plow
- tyre vs tire
- yoghurt (and even yoghourt) vs yogurt
- judgement vs judgment (you'll see both in the UK)
- Americans want to put the E in there, but their spell-checkers tell them not to, Brits often do put an E in there, practise (verb) and practice (noun) vs practice
- Both US and UK prefer glamour (but US accepts the non-preferred glamor). But both also prefer glamorous to glamourous.
- Both US and UK insist on Caesar, but US prefers cesarean to caesarean.
- The use of disc vs disk is hopelessly confused. Both insist on disc jockey and disc brakes. But both also insist on floppy disk and hard disk. In general, UK prefers disc and US prefers disk, but the spelling of the expanded form of CD depends mainly on whether you are talking about music (compact disc) or data (compact disk).
- US insists on disheveled, initialed, and similar single-L spellings while UK insists on dishevelled, initialled, etc.
- Full is the only word in US or UK English that ends in -full. Related words are always spelled with a single L: handful, teaspoonful, artful, successful, etc. (And, as noted above, US insists on fulfill while UK insists on fulfil.)
- Smidgen, smidgeon, and smidgin are all valid variants in US and UK English (with smidgen being preferred in both).
- "Fraternal twin" words like dreamt vs dreamed, leapt vs leaped, and speciality vs specialty are treated as entirely different words here, since some are sometimes found in both US and UK English.
In the course of studying the differences between US and UK spelling, a few peculiarities of interest do arise. .