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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the spelling police run rampant in cyberspace! From website guest books to blog comments, these policemen and women are constantly writing tickets for the slightest infringements on English spelling rules. Unfortunately there is no Spelling Police Academy that explains to these officials the differences between American and British spelling. That’s why you’ll find so many websites today (especially websites dealing with topics related to the English language) that have bold spelling disclaimers across the top of the home page.

To ward off the spelling police, fill in the blanks of this disclaimer with either “American” or “British” depending on the variety you use:

“I am _____________. Therefore, all the text on all the pages of this site is written in ___________ English. Please do not write me with complaints about my spelling or grammar before you have checked an authorized ______________ dictionary or grammar reference.”

Of course, if you are a British English speaker, you’ll also have to ‘correct’ all the spelling and grammar ‘errors’ in that disclaimer before you post it, because I am American, and therefore this article is written in American English. Please do not write me with complaints… I think you get the point.

Since I would also like to do my part and offer a public service, I thought I would provide everyone with a simple explanation for the most common spelling differences in these two Standard English varieties – grammar and vocabulary will have to be covered in another article! So next time you get a ticket on your site, forward the police this list in your defense. Maybe they’ll consider reducing the fine – or just keeping their mouths shut next time!

1) UK -our = US -or

Examples: colour/color, humour/humor, flavour/flavor, favourite/favorite

2) UK -re = US -er

Examples: centre/center, metre/meter, litre/liter

3) UK -ise = US -ize

Examples: realise/realize, organise/organize, recognise/recognize

4) UK -que = US -ck

Examples: cheque/check, chequered/checkered

5) UK -ll before -ing = US -l before -ing

Examples: travelling/traveling, signalling/signaling

6) UK -l = US -ll

Examples: appal/appall, enrol/enroll

7) UK -ce = US -se

Examples: licence/license (noun form), defence/defense

An exception to the rule: UK practise (verb) and practice (noun) = US practice (both verb and noun). I got a ticket for this one recently, so I just had to include it.

8) UK -ogue = US -og

Examples: catalogue/catalog, dialogue/dialog, epilogue/epilog

9) UK -t =US -ed (in a select group of past tense verbs)

Examples: spelt/spelled, dreamt/dreamed, burnt/burned, spoilt/spoiled

I hope that this clarifies some of the most common spelling misunderstandings. This list is not exhaustive, and there are, of course, exceptions to some of the rules. Despite these shortcomings, I hope that I have helped by providing you with a proper defense in spelling court.

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