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Important American And British Spelling Differences You Should Know

You may already know that the word “pants” means something else entirely in British English (hint: it doesn’t mean “trousers”), but do you know about the words that both British and American English speakers use, yet spell differently?

A basic rule of the thumb that covers these words is that American English spelling tends to be simplified and pronunciation-based. While British English favors the spelling of words as they originally appeared in the language they’ve been borrowed from – for instance, the word “cheque” – American English spellers generally write the word as they sound it out: “check.”

Writers, exchange students, and businessmen and businesswomen need to be aware of these spelling differences when dealing with people in Britain and the US, because using the proper spelling for each country helps avoid confusion, and also lends that touch of professionalism that marks a true global citizen.

Here are the main spelling differences between American and British spelling of English words.


Words that end in –re in Britain often have those two letters reversed when spelled in American English. Here are some examples:

British English

centre, fibre, litre, theatre

American English

center, fiber, liter, theater


While the British use the –nce ending, Americans generally prefer –nse.

American English

defense, license, offense, pretense

British English

defence, licence, offence, pretence


American English uses the –ize spelling at the end of words, and while some people in Britain accept that as a valid spelling, you’ll usually see those same words spelled with the  –ise ending instead.

British English

apologise, organise, recognise

American English

apologize, organize, recognize


In British English, the preferred spelling of words ending in –our is not maintained in American English; in the United States, the “u” is dropped from the word.

American English

behavior, color, humor, labor, neighbor, flavor

British English

behaviour, colour, humour, labour, neighbour, flavour

Double vowels “ae” and “oe”

While the British retain the more complex spelling of words with Greek or Latin roots, using the orthodox spelling that was established when those words were brought into the English language as far back as the 14th and 15th centuries, the Americans, as usual, like their terminology simplified.

American English





British English





Words ending in a vowel plus –l

While Americans have dropped the double “l” when adding suffixes to verbs that end in the letter “l” the British still generally use the two-”l” approach to their spelling.

American English






British English






The rules can be confusing, especially for people who are learning English as a second language. Which system you choose often depends on where you’re learning English. Obviously, if you’re learning English in the United States, you will be taught that orthography, but if you are learning English in India, you will generally be taught the British spelling. Wherever you are, keep in mind that more often than not, the American spelling of words is a simplified version that is closer to how a word sounds rather how it was spelled in the language it has been borrowed from.

Knowing the spelling rules and differences will help you learn the spelling exceptions, too. For instance, archaeology is a spelling that’s used by English teachers and scientists in both American and British universities. Keep digging around, and you’ll find more exceptions – and that’s a hard and fast rule.

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Yes, People Of All Ages Can Improve Their Spelling Skills

We tend to associate spelling practice with young children who are struggling to understand why the English language is not written like it’s pronounced, but the truth is, a person in any age group can improve – and should improve – their spelling skills.

Spelling bees are not an event reserved for schoolchildren. There are plenty of spelling bee competitions for adults taking place around the globe — proof that spelling is both loved and seen as fun by many people, no matter how old they are.

This summer, the 11th annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee was held in the city of Opelika, Alabama. In this spelling bee competition, teams of spellers competed against each other for a good cause: raising money for the literacy needs of Lee County. Apart from raising money and showing people how they can help the Lee County Literacy Coalition, the spelling bee allowed people to flaunt their spelling skills in a fun and adrenaline-boosting way.

The Opelika Spelling Bee is not the only adult-aimed competition in the United States. Senior spelling bees are also quite popular in many regions. Although not as well known as the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the Senior Spelling Bee allows people over the age 50 to compete against one another in the pursuit of the Senior Spelling Bee Champion title.

This summer the  Senior Spelling Bee competition was held in Knoxville, Tennessee. The champion was an English Professor,  Lauren Matz from Olean, New York.

Ms. Matz had to correctly spell out words such as “sullage,” “iridescence,” and “harmattan” to win the title. An interesting ranking of the 2014 National Senior Spelling Bee is that a couple, David and Nancy Mullard, won the second and third place prizes.

Official and unofficial spelling bee events remind us that spelling is an integral part of everyday communication. Spelling is omnipresent. We understand its importance when our autocorrect messes up our text messages, when our editor flags our misspellings, and when we have trouble spelling a last name that seemed to be so simple to spell when we heard it pronounced.

Improving your spelling can be a fun activity. Don’t think that spelling has to be a boring chore you need to get through quickly. Several spelling games and apps available in software or on line can help you improve on your orthography skills in a way that feels more like play and less like learning.

No matter your age, there’s a game or fun spelling activity you can engage with today, and improve your spelling performance right away. Just think of all the fancy words you’ll be able to spell correctly, and impress everyone!

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Into The World of Homophones: Discovering How They Are Affecting Our Writing

Unless you’re a ferociously passionate language user, chances are you’ve used a similar sounding word instead of the appropriate one, and more than once. How many times in the last week did  your Word editor flagged your errors when you confused “its” and “it’s” or “their” and “there”? Worse, what if your computer editor didn’t catch them at all?

What is a homophone?

A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same way as another word, but has a different meaning. This means that words like “to”, “two”, and “too” are homophones. We pronounce them the same, yet their meanings are completely different.

It’s not just simple words that get confused. The words “queue” and “cue” have a different spelling and meaning, but they too can be confused when you’re touch typing quickly and you’re already deep into your post-snack afternoon slump.

Why so much hate on homophones?

The English language has borrowed words from so many languages and cultures that it has become a very confusing and often unpredictable language to learn. “Tea” and “tee” are semantically different, but it’s unbelievably easy to swap one for the other in writing.

This is why people can get upset when homophones cause them problems. Homophones are little language bandits that steal away your thunder. Your writing will never be flawless because they’re bound to ruin it, you think. The thing is they’re embarrassingly good at it – but you can be better.

How to master homophone usage

The only foolproof solution to ban homophone misuse from your writing once and for all is to improve your writing skills.

Homophones, as we said above, are little bandits that wait for exhaustion to kick in to make their move and sneak into your writing. This means the best thing you can do is to equip yourself with the linguistic knowledge you  need to avoid them, or at least spot them when they creep in.

  • Revisit your elementary school years and practice your spelling and vocabulary skills. There’s no shame in trying to become a competent language user, no matter how old you are.

  • When learning new words, ensure you master both their spelling and their meaning.

  • It’s not enough to know how a word is pronounced, because chances are you’re going to confuse “keys” with “quays” at some point.

  • By properly learning a word’s orthography and meaning you are instantly minimizing the chances of confusing homophones in your writing. This will ensure that you avoid the always-awkward situation of having to explain yourself to your editor or manager. Yikes.

  • Practice your language skills with spelling games and even with spelling software. Good software will help you brush up on your language skills and give you a the tools you need to write clearly and proofread your writing afterward. Remember, “Ceiling the deal” is not an acceptable phrase any way you look at it.

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Hashtags: A Revolution In Trending Topics

People love – and hate – hashtags. These linkable words in your tweets are the best way to lead people to your posts by using concepts and words you’re playing with in your Tweets and posts.

By putting a hashtag in front of a word, as in #summerfestivals, you’ll make it easy for people to click on this hashtag to quickly access a newsfeed of tweets that pertain to summer festivals – including your own posts and tweets.

Once they started to be widely used, it soon became evident how crucial hashtags are for brands and companies. Social media professionals learned to use hashtags’ searchability to boost brand awareness and create trending topics around their products and services. This technique is especially useful when it’s done in combination with something called “newsjacking.”

Take for example Germany’s recent World Cup victory. Adidas Football tweeted this message after Germany’s victory: “There’s only one way to win a #WorldCup: #allin http://youtu.be/ApphNxn3dhs”. By using this breaking news to link to the company’s website and news feed, Adidas Football made sure they were keeping the corporate brand in everyone’s mind, with a simple tweet that looks like a timely message of support and congratulations to the German national football team, rather than the advertising and brand messaging that it actually is.

Marketing moves like this are frequently applied by social media professionals, because they generate more followers and build wider recognition for brands.

Getting your timing right and linking to intriguing content are two important ingredients to make hashtags work for you. Needless to say, hashtags need to be properly spelled. Despite the lack of space between words, the spelling of those words needs to be correct in order for your hashtag to actually participate in the trending topic you’re trying to be part of.

If you accidentally write #greatful instead of #grateful, don’t expect much of an engagement with it, at least not connected to the topic you were aiming for.

Twitter is meant to be a place for witty, interesting ideas and conversations, and if you bring your corporate, serious voice to it, you are likely to drive new fans and existing clients away. Speak in your target demographics’ voice; speak in a language they use and understand. On the other hand, you need to avoid sounding  like you’re trying to be too hip or too urban, as it might sound exaggerated and fake. Keep the conversations casual with simple, direct language.

A/B Testing With Hashtags

The great thing about hashtags is that they allow you to try out different key concepts related to your brand. See what the most important and relevant keywords for your company are and play around with them on Twitter through hashtags.

Next, see how much and how frequently people are responding and engaging with each version, how many new followers you get thanks to them, and how your overall community reacts to them. If a keyword has too much competition, try out a different one with a different focus. Once you find the ones that engage your followers and create conversation, ensure you also integrate them in other social media related activities, including your landing page, your blogs, and your website.

Hashtags are a great way to take advantage of trending topics or create your very own viral topic that everyone will talk about on social media.

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