American English versus British English

There are some variations in American and British English spellings which sometimes confuse readers who are not aware of this fact. The British (and those of the Commonwealth countries) spell words as they have always been spelling them. The Americans, on the other hand, tend to spell words as they sound… often by omitting some letters. The most common difference –

1. Nouns that end in –or in American English, end in –our in British English. Examples:

American English British English
color colour
neighbor neighbour
favor favour

2. Nouns that end in –er in American English, end in –re in British English. Examples:

American English British English
meter metre
center centre
theater theatre

3. Nouns that end in –g in American English, end in –gue in British English. Examples:

American English British English
catalog catalogue
dialog dialogue
analog analogue

4. Some other examples of nouns:

American English British English
program programme
draft draught
check cheque
jewelry jewellery
tire tyre

5. Verbs that end in –ze in American English, end in –se in British English. Examples:

American English British English
criticize criticise
memorize memorise
organize organise

6. –ll versus –l: In American English, verbs that end in –l preceded by a vowel, form their past by keeping the l singular when the suffixes –ed or –ing are added; but in British English the l is doubled. Examples:

American English British English
traveled/traveling travelled/travelling
quarreled/quarreling quarrelled/quarrelling

But – in American English, the l is doubled when the last syllable of a word that ends in –l is stressed; whereas, in British English it is not. Examples:

American English British English
fulfill fulfil
enrollment enrolment
skillful skilful

7. Some other differences when suffixes are added:

American English British English
aging ageing
kidnaping kidnapping
argument arguement
judgment judgement

These are just some of the differences in American and British English spellings. There are others, but it’s not possible to give them all here in one post. (We have already written about the differences in spellings when forming the past of some verbs :– those ending in –ed or –t.)

There is another thing that must be mentioned here. As a result of modern trends in the pop scene, scientific and technical advances, as well as the fast growth and reach of the media, American spellings are fast gaining ground. Their influence can also be seen in British English which is now slowly adopting American spellings as standard. This is why you will often see American spellings in British English.

Both the American and British spellings are correct and any may be used, but consistency is important.

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Quotes on Spelling

*  My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.  ~  A. A. Milne

*  I don’t give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way.  ~  Mark Twain

*  When our spelling is perfect, it’s invisible. But when it’s flawed, it prompts strong negative associations.  ~  Marilyn vos Savant

*  A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the word you first thought of.  ~  Burt Bacharach

*  Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well.  ~  Thomas Jefferson to his daughter

*  Correct spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by school ma’ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world.  ~  Henry Louis Mencken

*  … the English alphabet is pure insanity…, It can hardly spell any word in the language with any degree of certainty.  ~  Mark Twain

*  The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. They spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like. It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him. German and Spanish are accessible to foreigners: English is not accessible even to Englishmen.  ~   George Bernard Shaw

And here’s a nice one on English spelling – attributed to Oscar Wilde

If GH can stand for P as in Hiccough
If OUGH stands for O as in Dough
If PHTH stands for T as in Phthisis
If EIGH stands for A as in Neighbor
If TTE stands for T as in Gazette
If EAU stands for O as in Plateau

The right way to spell POTATO should be: GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU!

What do you have to say of the English spelling?

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The Correct Word – Learned or Learnt

I have often been asked this question: Which is the correct past tense of learnlearned or learnt? Well, the answer is simple. Both are correct. Yes, both learned and learnt may be used as the past of learn depending on which form of English you’re using. Learned is used in American English, and learnt in British English. But these days, due to the influence of American English, learned is also being written in Britain.  So, in short, both the forms are correct. The only thing to remember is – whichever form you use, be consistent. Don’t use both learned and learnt together.

There’s just one case where only learned is used – whether British or American English. This is when used as an adjective meaning “possessing or demonstrating profound knowledge”. For example, ‘a learned person’ or ‘a learned response’. In this case, learned is pronounced with two syllables – “learn” and “ed”, unlike learned as a verb where it’s just one syllable.

There are some other verbs that have both ‘ed’ (American) and ‘t’ (British) endings for past tense:

Spell – spelled, spelt

Leap – leaped, leapt

Burn – burned, burnt

Spill – spilled, spilt

Spoil – spoiled, spoilt

Dream – dreamed, dreamt

Kneel – kneeled, knelt

Can you think of any more?

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Perfect Writing?

punc cartoon 2(courtesy CartoonStock.com)

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Words Ending With –ance and –ence

While writing the previous post, ‘The Importance of Perseverance’, I was reminded of the question my students often ask me – When do words end with –ance and when do they end with – ence. For example, the words importance and perseverance both end with –ance, but the words essence and affluence end with –ence, even though they are all pronounced identically. Why?  What is the rule for knowing when to end with –ance and when with –ence?

Unfortunately (if the word can be used here), there is no rule for this. In fact English grammar in general has no set rules. The reason for this is that the English language is derived from at least six different languages. Then with time and the advancement of science and technology, new words were formed and added to the English language, while other words weredictionary modified. With such diverse roots and changes, English grammar could never have any rules as such.

Now coming back to –ance and –ence, words ending with these suffixes are among the most misspelled words in the English language. The best way to know the correct ending is to learn the spellings, and when in doubt, check the dictionary. Other than this, based only on observation, these points can be kept in mind –

* Add –ance when

Root ends with a hard c or g: significance, elegance

Root ends with –ear: appear – > appearance

Root ends with –ure: endure – > endurance

Root ends with –ate: dominate – > dominance

Root ends with –er and first syllable stress: hinder – > hindrance

Root ends with y: defy – > defiance

Root begins with a: assist – > assistance

* Add –ence when

Root ends with a soft c or g: innocence, intelligence

Root ends with –ist: insist – > insistence

Root ends with – ere: interfere – > interference

Root ends with –er and last syllable stress: prefer – > preference

Root contains esce: inflorescence

Root contains id: confidence

Root contains qu: consequence

These “rules” are, however, not 100% reliable. All of them have exceptions. An example of an exception is perseverance. Although the root (persevere) ends with ere, -ance and not –ence is added. It is, therefore, best to consult a dictionary when in doubt.

How do you manage to spell these words correctly?

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Is Correct Spelling Important

spelling 1Whether correct spelling is important or not has been a debating issue for quite some time now. Some scholars are of the view that too much emphasis must not be placed on correct spelling as it slows down the creative process. They feel that the ability to spell well is a natural skill, and as long as the reader can understand what the writer is saying, it should not be such a big problem. Other scholars, on the other hand, believe that correct spelling is important. I personally tend to agree with this second group.

Whereas I do agree that there is no correlation between the ability to spell correctly and intelligence or success in life, I also feel that it is wrong to ignore spelling. Correct spelling is very important and the reasons for this are many. The main ones are:

1. Helps in reading and writing: Learning to spell correctly, helps in learning how letters connect and make sounds, which in turn help in reading better.  If people can read better, it increases their proficiency in the language, and as a result helps in writing better.

2. Improves vocabulary and comprehension:  Generally when people read, they tend to skip words they do not understand; but if they have learned how to spell correctly, they can connect letters and read the new words, which in turn improves their vocabulary. If reading and vocabulary is good, it naturally improves comprehension.

3. Creates a good impression: Good and correct spelling is a sign of good education. Poor spelling reflects badly on the person and may even negatively affect a person’s job.

Do you think spelling is important? I’d to know your views on this.

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