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American and British spelling

There are several main areas in which American and British spelling are different. The differences are often due to the fact that British English has tended to keep the spelling of words it has absorbed from other languages (e.g., French) while American English has adapted the spelling to reflect the way that the words actually sound when they're spoken. 

Words ending in -er/–re
 
American English words that end in -er often end in -re in British English:
 
US
British
center
centre
fiber
fibre
liter
litre
meter
metre
theater or theatre
theatre
 
Note that in American English, theater is the standard spelling, but the -re spelling is also commonly used, especially in proper names (the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre).

 

Words ending in -or/-our 

American English words ending in -or often end in -our in British English:
 
US
British
color
colour
flavor
flavour
humor
humour
labor
labour
neighbor
neighbour
 
 
Words ending in -ize/-ise
 
Verbs in British English that can be spelled with either -ize or -ise at the end are always spelled with -ize at the end in American English:
 
US
British
apologize
apologize or apologise
organize
organize or organise
recognize
recognize or recognise

 

Words ending in -yze/-yse

 
Verbs in American English that end in -yze are always spelled -yse in British English:
 
US

 

British
analyze
analyse
breathalyze
breathalyse
paralyze
paralyse
 
 
Words ending in a vowel plus l
 
In British spelling, for verbs ending in a vowel plus l, double the l when adding endings that begin with a vowel. In American English, the l is doubled only when the stress is at the end of the word. Otherwise the l is not doubled:
 
US

 

British

 

travel
travel
traveled
travelled
traveling
travelling
traveler
traveller
 
fuel
fuel
fueled
fuelled
fueling
fuelling
 
patrol
patrol
patrolled
patrolled
patrolling
patrolling
 
 
Words spelled with -oe/-ae

British English words that are spelled with the double vowels ae or oe are usually spelled with just an e in American English:

 
US
British

 

leukemia
leukaemia
maneuver
manoeuvre
estrogen
oestrogen
pediatric
paediatric
 
Note that in American English, certain terms, such as archaeology, keep the ae spelling as standard, although the spelling with just the e (e.g., archeology) is usually acceptable as well.
 
 
Nouns ending with -ense/–ence
 
Several nouns that end with -ense in American English are spelled with -ence in British English:
 
US

 

British
defense
defence
license
licence
offense
offence
pretense
pretence
 
 
Nouns ending with -og/–ogue
 
Some nouns that end with -ogue in British English end with either -og or -ogue in American English:
 
US
British
analog or analogue
analogue
catalog or catalogue
catalogue
dialog or dialogue
dialogue
  
The distinctions here are not hard and fast. The spelling analogue is acceptable but not common in American English; catalog has become the US norm, but catalogue is not uncommon; dialogue continues to be preferred over dialog.
 
 
Aside from spelling differences, many items and practices have different names in American and British English. To explore further, see British and American and terms.

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