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

Kyle A. Massa
ProWritingAid Marketing and Support Specialist
Published Mar 11, 2019
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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.

Contents:

  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
ProWritingAid Marketing and Support Specialist

Kyle A. Massa is a speculative fiction author living in upstate New York with his wife and their two cats. He loves the present tense and multiple POV characters. When he grows up, he wants to be a professional Magic: The Gathering player. Visit his website at www.kyleamassa.com or download his debut novel, Gerald Barkley Rocks, for Amazon Kindle today.

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.

By DavidFB on 14 March 2019, 07:29 PM

Mould (UK) and Mold (US)

By mphcoach on 16 March 2019, 12:12 PM