American and British spelling differences (part 3)

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Differences between the different varieties of English can be very confusing. Today we are on our final look at spelling differences between American and British English. You can check the two previous articles Part 1 or Part 2  

CE vs SE:

This one is a bit of a tricky one, as there aren’t really any rules, you just have to learn each word on its own. For advice/advise and device/devise, both British and American dialects follow the same rule: noun with c, a verb with s. British English also keeps that spelling on licence/license and practice/practise, but in American English, they are always licensed and practise. When it comes to defence, offence and pretence, British English uses the -ce version and American English uses defence, offence and pretence.  

LOGUE/GOGUE vs LOG/GOG: analogue and analogue

This difference is quite straight forward. British and American English use -logue and -gogue but American prefers -log and -gog.
  • analogue and analog
  • catalogue and catalog
Keep in mind that the change doesn’t affect any other words that end in -gue: tongue, argue…  

Double consonants: travelling and traveling

Double consonants are very confusing because some words are doubled only in British English, some only in American English, some in either and some in both. As a general rule if a word doubles a consonant, the doubling usually happens when an inflection is added to a verb: such as -ed, -ing, -er, -or, -est.  

Doubled in both

  • When a word finishes in a stressed syllable and an inflection is added, doubling generally happens when the word ends in a single vowel followed by a single consonant, for example strip/stripped.
  • Compelledexcellingpropelledrebelling also always double in both British and American varieties.

Doubled in British English only

  • British English adds to the previous rule by also doubling the final -l when the last syllable is unstressed, for example: cancelledcruellestlabelledsignalling, and travelling.
  • If there is a final -l and the vowel-consonant comes after a vowel that forms part of a consonant sound (qu-, ti-), then the -l is doubled. For example, equalling and initialled.
  • British English also always uses jewellery.

Doubled in American English only

  • American English keeps a double consonant (mostly -l) at the end of a word if it’s part of the word, but British English usually drops the double consonant. For example, skillfulfulfillmentenrollment.

No doubles

  • Parallel always keeps a single -l, to avoid too many -llell-.
  • Going back to the first rule, if a word has two vowels and a consonant or consonant-vowel-consonant, no doubling takes place. For example: revealingfooling. Remember those words that break this rule (under ‘doubled in both).