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BlogGrammar RulesDo You Know the Key Differences Between UK and US English?

Do You Know the Key Differences Between UK and US English?

Kyle A. Massa

Kyle A. Massa

Speculative Fiction Author

Published Mar 11, 2019


Sometimes it feels like British English and American English might as well be different languages. Football versus soccer, loo versus bathroom, queue versus line… the differences are endless!

We can’t help you figure all those out, but we can help with alternate spellings between the two dialects. Here are some of the most notable examples.

  1. -ce and -se
  2. -ise and -ize
  3. -yse and -yze
  4. -ogue and -og
  5. Some words ending with a vowel and the letter “L”
  6. Other miscellaneous differences
  7. Get help from ProWritingAid!

-ce and -se

This one comes up often here at ProWritingAid with the word “licence.” That’s the UK spelling. The US spelling is “license.” (Every Premium customer has a licence, no matter how it’s spelled!) Here are some other examples:

  • Pretence (UK), Pretense (US)
  • Defence (UK), Defense (US)
  • Offence (UK), Offense (US)

-ise and -ize

Maybe it’s because I’m an American English speaker, but the American version seems more intuitive to me. That’s because when we say these words out loud, we’re making a “z” sound, not an “s” sound. Some examples:

  • Terrorise (UK), Terrorize (US)
  • Realise (UK), Realize (US)
  • Organise (UK), Organize (US)

-yse and -yze

The good news is, if you remember the last one, you’ll likely remember this one, too. With words like paralyse, we’re using an “s” for UK English and a “z” for US English.

  • Analyse (UK), Analyze (US)
  • Catalyse (UK), Catalyze (US)
  • Crystallise (UK), Crystalize (US)

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-ogue and -og

Rather than dealing with replacement letters here, we’re dealing with additional ones. You might recognize some of these:

  • Analogue (UK), Analog (US)
  • Dialogue (UK), Dialog (US)
  • Catalogue (UK), Catalog (US)

Remember, these words are all pronounced the same no matter what. It’s just the spelling that’s different.

Some words ending with a vowel and the letter “L”

When using suffixes to modify verbs ending in “L” in American English, it’s customary to use only one “L.” However, British English writers use two. You might’ve noticed that above with the word “crystallise.” Here are a few more examples:

  • Levelling (UK), Leveling (US)
  • Traveller (UK), Traveler (US)
  • Shovelled (UK), Shoveled (US)

Other miscellaneous differences

There are several standalone differences between these two dialects. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Cheque (UK), Check (US)
  • Grey (UK), Gray (US)
  • Hearken (UK), Harken (US)
  • Manoeuvre (UK), Maneuver (US)
  • Mollusc (UK), Mollusk (US)
  • Plough (UK), Plow (US)
  • Smoulder (UK), Smolder (US)

Get help from ProWritingAid!

Though catchy phrases and memorization might help you remember some of these differences, there’s only one tool that catches them all… ProWritingAid! Try it out free for 14 days and see what you think. Happy editing!

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Kyle A. Massa

Kyle A. Massa

Speculative Fiction Author

Kyle A. Massa is the author of the short fiction collection Monsters at Dusk and the novel Gerald Barkley Rocks. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and their two cats. Learn more about Kyle and his work at his website, kyleamassa.com.

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Let's not forget Canadian English. (laughs) We blend some of the UK and some American, like using flavour and cheque. (you could have an -our and -or section too) Default US spell-checkers are pushing us towards American spelling though. I'm holding on to some habits but I can see I've drifted west on others. Thanks for the summary, Kyle.
Mould (UK) and Mold (US)
Is that a KJV bible in the top picture?? If so, it's great to see.
Interesting point raised about the -ise VS -ize spellings and how -ize sounds more intuitive, but I'm pretty sure Americans also say 'advertise' rather than 'advertize'? Also, both -ise and -ize spellings are actually accepted in the UK. You'll see -ise much more often (at least 60% of the time) but both are classed as correct in British English.
Thanks for the feedback! I believe you are right about the word "advertise." :)

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