There are a number of differences between English as practiced in the United States and English as practiced in the UK and Commonwealth countries. Some of the major spelling differences are described in Scientific Style and Format, the CSE Manual.
- Words ending in “ize” or “yze” in American English often end in “ise” in British English. American English writes “catalyze”; British English writes “catalyse.”
- Words ending in “er” in American English end in “re” or “our” in British English. Americans write “center,” “fiber,” “liter,” and “color”; Brits write “centre,” “fibre,” “litre,” and “colour.”
- Words with “ae” in American usage are spelled “oe” in British English: estrus (American), oestrus (British).
- Other common scientific words with different spellings include (American/British): artifact/artefact, aluminum/aluminium, gray/grey, sulfur/sulphur.
- When adding the ending –able, –ant, –ed, –er, or –ing to a verb ending in the letter L, British English doubles the L. For example, the words labeled, modeling, signaling, traveler (American English) are spelled labelled, modelling, signalling, traveller in British English.
- Conversely, words that end with two Ls (e.g., enroll, install, skill) keep both Ls when –ful or –ment is added in American English spelling (enrollment, installment, skillful) but drop the second L in British English (enrolment, instalment, skilful).
How do you know which form of English to use? Know your audience and check the requirements of your target journal. When in doubt about a spelling, a good dictionary—the gold standard—can help!
Spell it right for the side of the pond where your readers are!
See our related post about British vs. U.S. punctuation!