American English – How Are Spellings Different From British English?

English is spoken and written differently in different parts of the world. Some common types of English are British English, Indian English, American English, Canadian English and Australian 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; their counterparts across the Atlantic have often stated that the British can’t always tell the difference between words like ‘advice’ and ‘advise’.

Well, before we list the differences between spellings in British English and American English, let’s get one thing straight: writers from both countries struggle with bad spelling and grammar, which is why copy editors still have jobs! 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, enrol vs enroll (US), and cancelled vs canceled.

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