Three common distinctions between UK and US spelling

We speak the same language on both sides of the Atlantic, yet there are a few small but important differences in how we spell certain words.

When typing, be sure to have your spellcheck set on the correct dictionary depending on whether you’re writing for a British or American audience. If you don’t, you word processing software won’t pick up any misplaced Americanisms or Anglicisms, or worse still, it might change them automatically.

A list of differences between the two versions of English is useful to refer to, but here are three of the biggest spelling disagreements between UK and US spelling:

1. -ise vs. -ize

Perhaps the best known difference between British and American English is with the endings of words like ‘realise’, ‘recognise’ and ‘socialise’. In the UK, we spell these with an -ise ending, but Americans prefer -ize.

There are some exceptions though, with ‘advertise’ and ‘franchise’ spelled the same way in both, so consult a list if you’re unsure.

2. -or vs. -our

For words like ‘colour’, ‘flavour’ and splendour’, they remove the letter ‘u’ in American spellings. This mirrors the way they pronounce these words.

In the UK, we stick closer to the French spelling. The French influence in Canada might explain why Canadian spelling agrees with the UK rules for -our words.

3. -ter vs. -tre

A lot of UK words ending in -tre, such as ‘centre’ and ‘metre’, are spelled with the ‘r’ and ‘e’ the opposite way round in the US. Again, this probably reflects an American move away from French-style spelling.

The differences between UK and US spelling may be minor, but getting them wrong can make a hash of your work. Take a look at our Business Blogging for Beginners course for more advice on how to shore up your writing.

Categories: Words and Language

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