Thursday, November 6, 2008

U.K. English vs. American English

Sometimes in research and in editing, you may come across spellings you are not familiar with of relatively common words. Before you use ‘Spellcheck’ to correct them, you need to consider if they are correct in U.K. or American English, and if it is more appropriate to leave the spelling as is rather than to alter it.

A few examples of such words are as follows:

U.K. English*****American English
shoppe************shop (a store, not the activity)

If you are directly quoting a source, it is proper to use the spelling used in that source. If the word is part of a proper name, double-check it to be sure the correct spelling is used in your writing. Sometimes in America, businesses choose U.K. spellings. ‘theatre’ and ‘shoppe’ are two examples of words with which this occurs most commonly.

Spelling is not the only way in which U.K. English and American English differ. Many common items have very different names in each country. A few examples are as follows:

U.K. English*****American English
chips**************french fries
crisps*************potato chips

Generally, companies you write for will prefer one version of English to another. If you are unsure, ask.

One last thing to consider is that some words are pronounced differently in the U.K. and the U.S.A. When involved in a verbal interview, this may be confusing unless you are familiar with this fact. The words are spelled the same in both countries – they are just pronounced differently.

A few common examples are the words laboratory, schedule and renaissance.

For more information on U.K. English vs. American English, please refer to the following sources:

Enquire vs Inquire at

American vs British English from University of Tampere

Additional Resources from

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