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Writing Mistakes We Still Make: Transatlantic Differences

Various wooden stamps bearing numbers and letters of various sizes.
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American media is a huge part of English-speaking countries and their culture. From their shows to their memes, American grammar, vocabulary, and spelling are everywhere and can sometimes confuse us. In fact, it is so prevalent that some publishers or companies accept both American and British spellings because they are so widely used.


As a freelancer, I am regularly switching between American and British spelling in both my work and my personal life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to double-check these words, so I wanted to talk about them.


Why Are They Different?


But why can American and British spellings differ so much? Before certain styles became official, many different dictionaries were published with what that publisher or author believed to be correct; some were more prevalent than others. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755) became a highly popular dictionary in Britain while Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) was widely used in America. These two differences, along with other factors, made a big impact on British and American English.


Typically, Americans spell words as they sound while British English usually retains the spellings of the countries the words came from. While this is not the case for all American or British spellings, this is a good general rule.



Looking For U


While British English often keeps 'u' in certain words, Americans seem to have an aversion to putting 'u' in things.


Neighbour - Neighbor

Colour - Color

Favour - Favor



Catching Some Z’s


Americans are fans of replacing the 's' in British words with 'z'. British people, on the other hand, rarely use 'z' in words but can tolerate an 's' or 'z' at the end of certain verbs.


Apologise - Apologize

Organise - Organize

Paralyse - paralyze


Various coloured beads bearing white letters lie ready to be made into friendship bracelets.
Photo by Linh Pham on Unsplash

L Or LL


Verbs that end in a vowel and an 'l' will have a double ‘l’ in British English but a single ‘l’ in American English.


Travelled - Traveled

Travelling - Traveling



Ae and Oe Vs Just E


This is a huge example of Americans preferring to spell things as they sound. British words using 'ae' or 'oe' will just have an 'e' in their American versions.


Leukaemia - Leukemia

Manoeuvre - Maneuver

Oestrogen - Estrogen



C-ing S


Words that end in ‘ence’ in British English will be changed to ‘ense’ in their American spellings.


Defence - Defense

Offence - Offense

Pretence - Pretense



To Ue Or Not To Ue


Certain words that end in ‘ogue’ in British English will have the ‘ue’ removed in the American counterparts.


Analogue - Analog

Dialogue - Dialog

Catalogue - Catalog



Tre or Ter


Another simple one, certain words ending in 'tre' in English will end with a 'ter' instead across the pond.


Centre - Center

Metre - Meter

Litre - Liter


A bouquet of red and white roses sit next to a picnic basket of food, wine, and a letter.
Photo by Seth Reese on Unsplash

A Rose By Any Other Name


One common transatlantic issue between Americans and British folks comes down to names for things. What Americans call one thing could either mean something else in Britain or not exist in the UK and vice versa. While these can cause a harmless chuckle, it is important to remember that not all nouns are universal.


Jam - Jelly

Holiday - Vacation

Jumper - Sweater

Rubbish bin - Trash can


What do you think about these differences? Do you get mixed up? Have any fun transatlantic misunderstandings to share? Get in touch with us below - we’d love to hear from you!

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