American English vs. British English in Research Manuscripts: A Free Guide

In a simpler world, English would be written the same way everywhere. However, when Noah Webster set out to create an American English dictionary in the early 1800s, he did more than just add new words to British English: he also revised the spelling of many common words to eliminate what he saw as unnecessary letters. His new spellings were adopted in the US but not the UK, and these spelling differences remain to this day.

American English vs. British English - AJEThe list below is intended to provide an overview of the most common spelling differences between British and American English. The words beginning each list are intended to establish overall patterns, whereas the words in italicstowards the end of the lists are examples of deviations from the rule. Remember that you can choose between “English (U.S.)” and “English (U.K.)” in Microsoft Word when setting the language for your document. This change allows the spell check to help catch these differences in spelling.

Click here to download a list of American English and British English spelling differences for future reference.

-ize (-yze)/-ise

American British
characterize characterise
prioritize prioritise
specialize specialise
analyze analyse
catalyze catalyse
size size
exercise exercise
The products of the catalyzed reaction werecharacterized using specialized equipment. The products of the catalysed reaction werecharacterised using specialised equipment.


American British
behavior behaviour
color colour
favor favour
contour contour
Because of its decolorization behavior, this material is favored. Because of its decolourisation behaviour, this material is favoured.


American British
center centre
fiber fibre
liter litre
parameter parameter
Five milliliters of the mixture containing thefibers was pipetted on the center of the slide. Five millilitres of the mixture containing thefibres was pipetted on the centre of the slide.

e/(ae or oe)

American British
ameba amoeba
anesthesia anaesthesia
diarrhea diarrhoea
leukemia leukaemia
cesium caesium
The leukemia patient was given anesthesiabefore the procedure. The leukaemia patient was given anaesthesiabefore the procedure.


American British
defense defence
practice (noun and verb) practice (noun)/practise (verb)
license (noun and verb) licence (noun)/license (verb)
defensive defensive
advice (noun)/advise (verb) advice (noun)/advise (verb)
The defense attorney had practiced law for over thirty years. The defence attorney had practised law for over thirty years.

-/e, -og/-ogue

American British
aging ageing
acknowledgment acknowledgement
judgment judgement
analog analogue
dialog dialogue
dying/dyeing (from die/dye) dying/dyeing (from die/dye)
The aging analog-to-digital converter is slowly dying. The ageing analogue-to-digital converter is slowly dying.

-l/-ll OR -ll/-l

American British
fulfill fulfil
enroll enrol
skill, skillful skill, skilful
labeled labelled
signaling signalling
propelled propelled
revealing revealing
The skillful student noted that the drop inenrollment may be signaling a problem with the study design. The skilful student noted that the drop inenrolment may be signalling a problem with the study design.

This list of differences between American English and British English is by no means exhaustive, but we hope that it helps give you an idea of the distinctions between the two styles of writing. If you have questions about any particular word, please contact us.



British vs. American English: Spelling Differences in Academic Writing

Dear readers,

In Journal for ReAttach Therapy and Developmental Diversities we are using British English. So please adopt your articles to British English. Here are some spelling differences.

There are two main forms of written English – British and American – and most scholarly journals will indicate a preference or requirement for one or the other in their instructions for authors. Even if the guidelines of the journal to which you are hoping to submit your academic or scientific article does not specify whether you should use British or American English, you will be expected to use one form or the other consistently, and your spelling choices will need to be appropriate in every relevant instance. Unfortunately, many authors are not aware of the exact nature of the variations between British and American English, and while setting the default language in Microsoft Word to either British or American can help you catch and correct some misspelled words, it is far from foolproof. Most good English dictionaries will note spelling variations, but some dictionaries do not indicate in all cases whether the variants provided are determined by the differences between the two forms of English. Creating correct British or American English can therefore be challenging, and the following spelling notes may prove helpful as you polish your writing for publication.

• British English often uses ‘our’ (colour, behaviour) where American English uses only ‘or’ (color, behavior).
• British English tends to use ‘re’ at the end of words such as ‘centre’ and ‘metre,’ whereas American English uses ‘er’ (center, meter), but this is not always the case, with ‘parameter’ and ‘sober,’ for instance, correct in both forms of the language.
• British English can use either ‘ise’ or ‘ize’ in verbs that are always spelled with ‘ize’ in American English, so ‘organize’ and ‘specialize’ are correct in American English and can also be correct in British English, but British English can instead use ‘organise’ and ‘specialise.’
• British English uses ‘yse,’ as in ‘analyse’ and ‘paralyse,’ whereas American English uses ‘yze’ (analyze, paralyze).
• British English tends to use ‘ae,’‘oe’ and ‘ou’ in situations where American English uses only ‘e’ or ‘o,’ so ‘aesthetics,’ ‘manoeuvre’ and ‘mould’ are correct in British English, but the spelling would be ‘esthetics,’ ‘maneuver’ and ‘mold’ in American English, though these differences are not always observed.
• In British English ‘defence’ is spelled with a ‘c,’ but in American English the word is spelled with an ‘s’ (defense). The decision to use ‘c’ or ‘s’ can be tricky, however, with British English spelling the nouns ‘practice’ and ‘licence’ differently than the verbs ‘practise’ and ‘license,’ whereas American English uses ‘practice’ for both the noun and the verb and, conversely, ‘license’ for both the noun and the verb.
• British English will often retain an ‘e’ where American English will not, so ‘sizeable’ and ‘acknowledgement’ in British English are ‘sizable’ and ‘acknowledgment’ in American English, but this is not necessarily predictable: ‘judgement,’ for instance, is used in British English, except in legal contexts, in which case the correct form is ‘judgment,’ which is always the correct form in American English, and ‘knowledgeable’ retains its ‘e’ in both forms of the language.
• British English tends to use a single ‘l,’ as in ‘enrol’ and ‘skilful,’ whereas Amercian English uses double ‘ll’ in the same words (enroll, skillful).
• British English often doubles consonants when endings are added to words, as is the case with ‘focussed’ and ‘travelling,’ while American English does not (focused, traveling), but there are exceptions, with ‘enrolling’ the correct form in both.
• British English occasionally uses ‘ph’ (sulphur) where American English uses ‘f’ (sulfur), ‘sc’ (sceptic) where American English uses ‘sk’ (skeptic), ‘que’ (cheque) where American English uses ‘ck’ (check) and ‘ogue’ (catalogue) where American English uses only ‘og’ (catalog), though the two forms of the language do not always differ in the last of these ways, with ‘epilogue,’ for instance, the same in both.
• In some cases British English uses ‘mme’ (programme) where American English uses an ‘m’ alone (program), but this varies, and when ‘program’ applies to computer software, ‘mme’ is never used.

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