Spelling Variations

English spelling
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American spelling vs British spelling

One of the more notable differences between English as it is spoken in different countries is in the spelling of word endings. The following table shows some common spelling equivalents. Note that the British spelling is nearly always closer to the French.

American British French
-er center
theater
-re centre
theatre
centre
théâtre
-g catalog
dialog
-gue catalogue
dialogue
catalogue
dialogue
-m gram
program
-mme gramme
programme
gramme
programme
-or color
favor
-our colour
favour
couleur
faveur
-se defense
offense
-ce defence
offence
défense
offense
-zation privatization
authorization
-sation privatisation
authorisation
privatisation
autorisation
-ze realize
formalize
-se realise
formalise
réaliser
formaliser

For some words, British English has two spellings with different meanings/uses while American English has only one.

American British Distinction
check check verb
  cheque noun
license licence noun
  license verb
meter meter measuring tool (gas meter)
  metre unit of measurement
practice practice noun
  practise verb

Yet for other words, both dialects have two spellings:

Noun Verb
advice advise
device devise

Less common spelling tendencies

American British
-e- archeology
encyclopedia
-ae- archaeology
encyclopaedia
-l jewelry
fueled
-ll jewellery
fuelled
-ll fulfill
enrollment
-l fulfil
enrolment
-ling signaling
traveling
-lling signalling
travelling
-ipped worshipped -iped worshiped

Also, in American English the final e is removed from verbs before adding -ing, whereas in British English this is not always done:

American British
routing routeing
aging ageing

Other English Dialects

The above rules are for American vs British spelling. For the most part, the other English dialects also use British spelling, with some exceptions.

Australian English

Australian British
program programme
worshipped worshiped

In addition, several British spellings are in the process of becoming Americanized:

  • both -ae- and -e- may be found
  • both -ise and -ize are commonly used
  • -our is becoming -or, except in harbour and saviour

Canadian English

Canadian British
-ll fulfill -l fulfil
-m program -mme programme
-zation privatization -sation privatisation
-ze analyze -se analyse

However, many words have been Americanized and both spellings may be used.

English spelling

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American vs British spelling