The Main Differences Between American and British English

One of the major struggles that English speakers and writers suffer from is the different variants of American English and British English. Mistakes regarding these variants are very common that even experts get confused at times. Therefore, if you are struggling with these differences, don’t worry — you are not alone. Now, what you can do is gradually learn more about the two English variants. We assembled a comprehensive guide that highlights the basic differences between American and British English.

01.01.2022

The Main Differences Between American and British English

This handout discusses the main differences between American and British English. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.

One of the major struggles that English speakers and writers suffer from is the different variants of English: American English and British English. These mistakes are very common that even experts get confused at times. Therefore, if you are struggling with these differences, don’t worry — you are not alone. Now, what you can do is gradually learn more about the two formats, and for that, you have arrived at the right place.

We assembled a comprehensive guide that highlights the basic differences between American and British English so that you can learn the differences and use them effectively.

American English vs. British English — Where things changed

The English language came to the Americans through British travelers who arrived on American soil through seas way back in the 17th and 18th centuries. However, at that time, spellings were still not standardized as there were no dictionaries. When dictionaries came to be, lexicographer Noah Webster decided to change the spellings to show the cultural independence of this language from its motherland. So that is how the difference came to be. However, that is not the only factor that causes differences between the two variants. The main things that distinguish American English from British English are the following factors:

  • Spelling

  • Vocabulary

  • Pronunciation

  • Minor grammatical context

Let us take our time to take a deeper look into the above-mentioned factors to understand the differences better and learn wisely.

Differences in spelling

As far as spellings go, the differences are merely based on a letter or two. Let us take a look (American English vs. British English):

American English

British English

-yze, -ize, -ense

analyze, apologize, defense

-yse, -ise, -ence

analyse, apologise, defence 

-or

Color

-our

Colour

-er

Center

-re

Centre 

-el, -ll

marvelous, fulfill

-elle, -l

marvellous, fulfil

-t

burnt

-ed

burned

Uses -e instead of -oe or -ae

Maneuver or Leukemia

Uses -oe or -ae

Manoeuver or Leukaemia

Does not use -e for modification

Love becomes lovable

Uses -e for modification

Love becomes loveable

The table below outlines the preferred spelling of some words in American and British variants:

US English

UK English

analyze

analyse

capitalize

capitalise

categorize

categorise

characterize

characterise

endeavor

endeavour

enroll

enrol

flavor

flavour

fulfill

fulfil

globalize

globalise

honor

honour

humor

humour

hypothesize

hypothesise

inquire

enquire

install

instal

labor

labour

legalize

legalise

maneuver

manoeuvre

neutralize

neutralise

optimize

optimise

organize

organise

organization

organisation

plow

plough

privatize

privatise

randomize

randomise

realize

realise

recognize

recognise

American English vs. British English

Difference in vocabulary

The two formats also observe a different vocabulary for specific words. Some prime examples are as follows (American English / British English):

US English

UK English

Truck

Lorry

Hood (of a car)

Bonnet

College

University

Chips

Crisps

Soccer

Football

Store

Shop

Apartment

Flat

Mailbox

Postbox

Cookie

Biscuit

leukemia

leukaemia

maneuver

manoeuvre

defense

defence

license

licence

offense

offence

analog or analogue

analogue

catalog or catalogue

catalogue

dialog or dialogue

dialogue

pants

trousers

flat

apartment

holiday

vacation

Differences in pronunciation

There are obvious differences in pronunciation, owing to the accent difference. Apart from that, there are a few differences in pronunciation, where the pronunciation of different vowels and consonants comes into play. Also, there are differences in how stress and intonation are applied to various words and phrases.

Grammatical context

Lastly, for grammatical context, though the general rules are the same, there are a few disparities, of which a few are as follows: 

  • Use of Present Perfect

You need to use present perfect to describe an action in the recent past with an immediate effect on the present when using British English. 

Example: I’ve eaten too much. I should rest for a while. 

However, for American English, it would be as follows: I ate too much. I should rest for a while.

  • Use of the verb ‘‘get’’

While British English will use ‘‘got’’ as the past participle of ‘’get,’’ American English will use ‘‘gotten’’ 

Example of British English: He’s got more crafty in his approach

Example of American English: He’s gotten more crafty in his approach

  • Forms of possession

British English will generally use ‘‘have got’’

Example: Have you got the required documents? 

American English will use ‘‘have’’

Example: Do you have the required documents?

Using single quotation marks (‘…’) and double quotation marks (“…”)

Using quotation marks is probably the most debated among all punctuation marks. The usage of single or double quotation marks is predominantly dependent on the preferred type of English variant in your text. For American English, double quotes are used consistently for all conditions where quotation marks may be needed, whereas British English prefers single quotation marks. Therefore, a writer should be conscious of the language to make the correct usage of both symbols.

In American English, single quotation marks should be used to enclose a quotation within a quotation and inside quotation marks should be used to place periods and commas.

In British English, single quotation marks should be used to enclose a quotation and double quotation marks should be used to enclose a quotation within a quotation. Also, outside quotation marks are used to place periods and commas.

In American English:

  • Double quotation marks are used to enclose a quotation.

  • Single quotation marks are used to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

  • Inside quotation marks are used to place periods and commas.

  • Outside quotation marks are used to place other punctuation

In British English:

  • Single quotation marks are used to enclose a quotation.

  • Double quotation marks are used to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

  • Outside quotation marks are used to place periods and commas.

  • Outside quotation marks are used to place other punctuation.

Here are some examples:

American English

British English

He said softly, “I have a headache.”

He said softly, ‘I have a headache’.

Many dream images were characterized as “raw,” “powerful,” and “evocative.”

Many dream images were characterized as ‘raw’, ‘powerful’, and ‘evocative’.

American English vs. British English — Conclusion

So those are the basic differences between American and British English. Though it may seem confusing, once you start noticing the factors, recognizing the format becomes easier. Of course, practice and learning are always the best way to learn and progress. However, despite which format you follow, what matters is to stay consistent. When you are working for academic or commercial purposes, make sure which format is preferred and use that. If no format is specified, then start with one and stick to it till the end. In other words, if you start with American English, make sure you keep on using it till the end. This is where mistakes are common so make sure you are careful. If you are not sure about your application, you can easily rely on professional editing and proofreading services. Professional editors and proofreaders can easily help you maintain a consistent format throughout your work, alongside increasing the quality of your work.

If you need us to make your application letter shine, contact us unhesitatingly!

Best Edit & Proof expert editors and proofreaders focus on offering papers with proper tone, content, and style of academic writing, and also provide an upscale editing and proofreading service for you. If you consider our pieces of advice, you will witness a notable increase in the chance for your research manuscript to be accepted by the publishers. We work together as an academic writing style guide by bestowing subject-area editing and proofreading around several categorized writing styles. With the group of our expert editors, you will always find us all set to help you identify the tone and style that your manuscript needs to get a nod from the publishers.

American English vs. British English

English formatting service

You can also avail of our assistance if you are looking for editors who can format your manuscript, or just check on the particular styles for the formatting task as per the guidelines provided to you, e.g., APA, MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles. Best Edit & Proof editors and proofreaders provide all sorts of academic writing help, including editing and proofreading services, using our user-friendly website, and a streamlined ordering process.

Get a free quote for editing and proofreading now!

Visit our order page if you want our subject-area editors or language experts to work on your manuscript to improve its tone and style and give it a perfect academic tone and style through proper editing and proofreading. The process of submitting a paper is very easy and quick. Click here to find out how it works.

Our pricing is based on the type of service you avail of here, be it editing or proofreading. We charge on the basis of the word count of your manuscript that you submit for editing and proofreading and the turnaround time it takes to get it done. If you want to get an instant price quote for your project, copy and paste your document or enter your word count into our pricing calculator.

American English vs. British English

24/7 customer support | Live support

Contact us to get support with academic editing and proofreading. We have a 24/7 active live chat mode to offer you direct support along with qualified editors to refine and furbish your manuscript.

American English vs. British English

Stay tuned for updated information about editing and proofreading services!

Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn,  Facebook, Instagram, and Medium.

For more posts, click here. 

They Also Read

Academic Writing
An Easy-to-Follow Guide for an Impeccable Literature Review
01.01.2022

After a concise overture of the concerned discipline in the introductory section of a research paper or dissertation, the literature review should begin by delineating the significance of and the most critical works in that discipline. This handout provides six easy-to-follow steps for an impeccable literature review.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing
7 Tips to Write an Effective Research Paper
01.01.2022

Preparing a research paper is the most painstaking and challenging task for many individuals. However, with rigorous practice, it would be much hassle-free for you to sum up entirely. Are you thinking of the best ways to write an impactful research paper? We are here to help you! We present an easy-to-follow rubric that will help you draft an impeccable research paper.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing Academic Publishing
11 Tips for Successful Manuscript Submission
01.01.2022

The successful manuscript submission can benefit in accelerating quick publication, the promulgation of your findings, and avoiding the chances of scooping. Plus, it provides a quicker return for you to start working on your next study. This article will guide you through 11 tips for successful manuscript submission.

Continue Reading
APA Style Citation Styles Academic Writing Formatting
Importance of Academic Referencing and Citing
01.01.2022

Whenever you use words, facts, ideas, or explanations from other works, those sources must be cited. Academic referencing is required when you have copied texts from an essay, an article, a book, or other sources verbatim, which is called quotation. You also need referencing when you use an idea or a fact from another work even if you haven’t used their exact expression.

Continue Reading
Grammar Rules Academic Writing
15 Basic Capitalization Rules for English Grammar
01.01.2022

Although the rules of English capitalization seem simple at first glance, it might still be complicated in academic writing. You probably know you should capitalize proper nouns and the first word of every sentence. However, in some cases, capitalization is required for the first word in a quotation and the first word after a colon. In this article, you will find 15 basic capitalization rules for English grammer.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing
How to Formulate Research Questions
01.01.2022

A good part of any research depends on the right questions asked. If you are asking wrong questions, your entire research may go off track. Therefore, understanding what questions you need to ask is essential for your research. If you are on the way to your research but don’t know how to start framing the right research questions, we have just the right information for you. This article discusses the process of formulating research questions.

Continue Reading
Academic Writing Formatting Microsoft Tools
How to Format Academic Papers in Microsoft Word 2022
01.01.2022

This reference guide explains how to format your academic documents in Microsoft Word 2022, giving you the fundamental rules for formatting your academic papers as described in most guidelines, such as MLA and APA styles. The rules discussed in this guide apply to most of the academic papers you will submit as college assignments or articles for journals.

Continue Reading