Spelling Differences (American vs. British English)



This post is not specifically on legal language, but several of my students of Legal English at the Universidad Carlos III asked me to summarize for them the basic differences between American and British spelling. I am including here part of a handout that I prepared for them in the event it may be of interest to a wider audience.

In researching this I came across an interesting article in the Daily Mail* that outlines the progression of the supposed acceptance of many American spellings in English worldwide. It maintains that as early as the 1880s English language publications began to prefer American spelling, which became even more popular after World War I. Charts appearing on seemit** actually show the years in which certain American terms supposedly surpassed the British (“gray” vs. “grey;” “flavor” vs. “flavour;” “liter” vs. “litre,” etc.)

Nevertheless, translators, legal professionals and students of legal English should be aware of what are still considered the preferred spellings on each side of the “Pond.” There may be some flux and leeway, and some may not view these as set-in-stone rules, but here is a minimal collection of US vs. UK spellings appearing on the Oxford Dictionaries website*** and in other sources:

Words ending in “-er”/“-re”
American Usage British Usage
center centre
fiber fibre
kilometer kilometre
liter litre
theater/theatre theatre
Words ending in “-or”/“-our”
American Usage British Usage
behavior behaviour
color colour
flavor flavour
humor humour
labor labour
neighbor neighbour
Words ending in “–ize”/“-ise”
American Usage British Usage
apologize apologize/apologise
emphasize emphasise
organize organize/organise
recognize recognize/recognise
Words ending in “-yze”/“-yse”
American Usage British Usage
analyze analyse
catalyze catalyse
paralyze paralyse
One “l” vs. two “ll”
American Usage (“l”) British Usage (“ll”)
travel travel
traveled travelled
traveling travelling
traveler traveller
fuel fuel
fueled feulled
fueling fuelling
counselor counsellor
American Usage (“ll”) British Usage (“l”)
enrollment enrolment
fulfill fulfil
installment instalment
skillful skilful
Words with “e” in American English and “ae”/”oe” in British
American Usage British Usage
leukemia leukaemia
maneuver manoeuver
estrogen oestrogen
pediatric paediatric
Nouns ending in “-ense”/“-ence”
American Usage British Usage
defense defence
license licence
offense offence
pretense pretence
Nouns ending with “-og”/“-ogue”
American Usage British Usage
analog/analogue analogue
catalog/catalogue catalogue
dialog/dialogue dialogue
American Usage British Usage
airplane aeroplane
check cheque
cozy cosy
curb kerb
draft draught/draft
gray grey
jail gaol
mold mould
plow plough
program programme

* Cheyenne MacDonald. “The future is gray for British English: How American Spellings are taking over the world with ‘flavor,’ ‘center’ and ‘defense’ becoming the norm.” Daily Mail, July 27, 2016. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3711638/The-future-gray-British-English-Graphs-reveal-American-spelling-taken-1880s.html

** “The Decline of British English, Visualized” (author: oakstone) https://steemit.com/steemit/@oakstone/the-decline-of-british-english-visualized

*** https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/spelling/british-and-spelling)

One thought on “Spelling Differences (American vs. British English)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s