Friday, 13 April 2012

Spelling Differences In British vs American English

English is spoken and written differently in different parts of the world. Some common types of English, which editors at our online content writing company work with are British English, American English, Indian English, American English, Canadian English and Australian English. This blog post will discuss some of the most common spelling differences between British English and American English.

For every version of English, there are sure to be a few ‘experts’ who will vow that their version is the ‘proper’ version of English. While a few British editors have a lot to say about the inability of Americans to spell simple words like colour and tyre; their counterparts across the Atlantic have often stated that the British can’t always tell the difference between words like ‘advice’ and ‘advise’.

photo of spelling differences between american and british english

Well, before we list the differences in spellings between British English and American English, let’s get one thing straight: writers from both countries struggle with bad spelling and grammar, which is why online professional copy editors still have work! Hence, if you wish to strengthen your writing skills, it is important to do a lot of reading, research and practice; whenever you find the time.

Here are seven common differences in spelling, which often confuse British English and American English writers:
  1. Words that end in -our (British) against -or (American): Some common examples are colour vs color, flavour vs flavor, honour vs honor, and neighbour vs neighbor.
  2. Words that end in -re (British) against -er (American): Some common examples are metre vs meter, centre vs center, litre vs liter, and theatre vs theater.
  3. Verbs that end in -ise (British) against -ize (American): While both –ise (Cambridge spelling) and –ize (Oxford spelling) are used in British English, most people favour the more traditional spelling of –ise. In America, -ize is the only way such words are spelt. Some common examples are specialise vs specialize, optimise vs optimize, and realise vs realize.
  4. Verbs that are spelt with a double L (British) against a single L (American): Some common examples are travelled vs traveled, counselling vs counseling, and cancelled vs canceled.
  5. Verbs that end in -yse (British) against -yze (American): Some common examples are analyse vs analyze, paralyse vs paralyze, and catalyse vs catalyze.
  6. Nouns that end in -ce (British) against -se (American): Some common examples are licence vs license, defence vs defense, practice vs practise, and of course, advice vs advise. Note, this rule applies only to nouns; the verb form of these nouns is always spelt with an -se.
  7. Verbs that end in -t (British) against –ed (American): Some common examples are spelt vs spelled, dreamt vs dreamed, and learnt vs learned.

Here are a few more examples of British vs American English spellings to watch out for:
  • Grey (British) vs Gray (American)
  • Anaesthesia (British) vs Anesthesia (American)
  • Cheque (British) vs Check (American)
  • Oestrogen (British) vs Estrogen (American)
  • Whilst (British) vs While (American)
  • Manoeuvre (British) vs Maneuver (American)
  • Tyre (British) vs Tire (American)
  • Kerb (British) vs Curb (American)
  • Programme (British) vs Program (American)
  • Disc (British) vs Disk (American)
Please note, the spelling guidelines mentioned above are not comprehensive, and there are many exceptions to the rule. If you are not sure about the spelling of a word in your English dialect, always consult a dictionary or an online Internet resource, to make sure that you are spelling the word correctly.

Do you write in British English, American English, or both? Share your writing experiences with us, by posting a comment below. offers online copywriting packages and business communication services, at affordable rates. If you require high quality articles and marketing copy, just email us at or fill in our Contact Us form today.