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British vs American Spelling: Explaining the Difference and why it Matters

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Posted date : 21/06/2017
British and American spelling differences can be divided into two categories: word formation grou... Read More

How to Use the Colon in Academic Essays

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Posted date : 11/06/2017
The colon is a useful punctuation tool in academic essays. Its main functions include introducing... Read More

Three Capitalisation Rules They Did Not Teach You in School

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Simple Strategies to Make Your Academic Writing Sound More Formal

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Eliminate Vagueness to Make Your Writing Clearer and More Precise

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Posted date : 21/04/2017
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Improve the Clarity of Your Writing by Eliminating Ambiguity

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Structuring Academic Essays — Writing Effective Introductions: PART 2

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Posted date : 21/03/2017
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Structuring Academic Essays -- Writing Effective Introductions: PART 1

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Posted date : 11/03/2017
A good academic essay should begin with an effective introduction. The introduction should clearl... Read More

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British vs American Spelling: Explaining the Difference and why it Matters

Knowing the difference between British and American spelling is crucial. When writing academic essays, it is particularly important to understand the distinction between these two forms of English in order to avoid violating your university’s spelling guidelines. When it is not obvious which form of English you should use, it is a good idea to consult with your lecturer to determine whether you should use British or American English. Whatever the case, when choosing either form, always make sure that you are consistent. 


(1) Word formation groups

[-or / -our]
In American English the ‘u’ is dropped from the word, whereas in British English the ‘u’ is retained.
AMERICAN ENGLISH
color, honor, flavor, humor, labor, neighbor, behavior
BRITISH ENGLISH
colour, honour, flavour, humour, labour, neigbour, behaviour

[-ize / -ise]
American English uses –ize at the end of words, whereas British English prefers –ise
AMERICAN ENGLISH
criticize, recognize, organize, apologize, agonize 
BRITISH ENGLISH
criticise, recognise, organise, apologise, agonise 

[-er / -re]
American English uses –er, whereas British English uses the reverse form –re
AMERICAN ENGLISH
center, theater, fiber, liter
BRITISH ENGLISH
centre, theatre, fibre, litre

[-nse / -nce]
Americans generally use –nse, whereas the British tend to use –nce
AMERICAN ENGLISH
license, pretense, offense, defense
BRITISH ENGLISH
licence, pretence, offence, defence

[Words ending in a vowel plus –l]
American English prefers the use of a single ‘l’ when adding suffixes to verbs. British English generally uses the double “l” approach to spelling. 
AMERICAN ENGLISH
traveling, traveled, traveler
BRITISH ENGLISH
travelling, travelled, traveler

(2) Individual words
Apart from differences in word formation, British and American spelling also differ in terms of individual words. Here are a few examples:
AMERICAN ENGLISH
check, aluminum, gray, curb, maneuver, tire
BRITISH ENGLISH
cheque, aluminium, grey, kerb, manoeuvre, tyre

A final tip: When using Microsoft Word, make sure you have the language function set to the correct variant of English. This will help you to avoid unnecessary spelling errors.

 

Source:
Schur, Norman W., and Eugene Ehrlich. British English A to Zed. Revised and Updated ed. New York, NY: Checkmark Books, 2001.

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