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American versus British English

November 6, 2009 Filed under Articles, Blog, Resources, Writing 

[DMS: This was a sidebar that I cut from the book.  Even before I met and married my British–Australian wife, I had this sidebar in mind very early in the planning of the book.]

Over 300 years of separation has led to discernible differences between English as practiced in the United States and English as practiced in Europe.  Determine whether your target journal uses American or British English.  Also, be mindful of the differences between American and British English (and minor variants such as Canadian or Australian for those specific professional societies who have their own journals like the Canadian journal Atmosphere–Ocean or the Australian Meteorological Magazine.

The point of this section is not to present a complete list of rules, but to make authors aware of many of the common differences.  For more, see,, and  Other rules follow below (American English appears before the slash, followed by British English).

  • Some words are spelled differently:  gray/grey, program/programme, airplane/aeroplane, cooperation/co-operation.
  • Some words with the same meaning are entirely different between the two countries:  orient/orientate.
  • When adding -ing to a verb ending in a vowel and l, double the l in British English:  modeling/modelling, signaling/signalling.
  • American English tends to use periods in abbreviations, and British English tends to drop them:  Dr./Dr, e.g./eg, i.e./ie.
  • American English places the punctutation inside the quotations marks (He said, “Stop!”), whereas British English places the punctuation outside (He said, “Stop”!).

American endings and their British counterparts, followed by some examples and some exceptions (in parentheses).

-or      -our      favorable/favourable, color/colour
-er      -re        center/centre, fiber/fibre
-ce      -se        licence/license (defense/defence)
-ize     -ise      realize/realise, maximize/maximise
-yze    -yse     analyze/analyse, catalyze/catalyse
-og     -ogue   analog/analogue, catalog/catalogue
-dg     -dge     acknowledgment/acknowledgement

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One Response to “American versus British English”
  1. michelle says:

    On your last bullet point, I believe the British usage is that punctuation goes inside the quotation marks if it is part of the phrase in the quotation marks. Otherwise it goes outside. So I think your example would be the same in both usages (and I’m British).

    See, for example,

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