Big differences in spelling – American vs. British English

British vs American English

The English language started its worldwide expansion in the late middle ages. However, it was not until the 18th century that the first spelling standards emerged. This lead to different grammar rules being used in the former British colonies as opposed to the ones established in the native homeland of the United Kingdom.

American English opted for Latin influence

Today, the most relevant discrepancies in the use of this universal language can be noticed in the spelling differences between American speech and British English. Some of the more common words used on both sides of the pond, but with different forms are: check (Am.) – cheque (Br.), color (Am.) – colour (Br.), and center (Am.) – centre (Br.). It is mainly because American English is standardized according to the 1828 Webster Dictionary. This glossary paid homage to the Latin origins of the words that made their way into the English language through French borrowings.

The British doubling consonant

One major spelling difference between American and British English is the way a verb ending in “l” is changed when the present participle tense is used. In the United States, verbs like “travel” or “fuel” have the “–ing” ending added to become “traveling” or “fueling.” In the British dialect, however, the ending consonant is doubled to give birth to “travelling” and “fuelling.”

Spelling and its boomerang effect

Another spelling difference is the use of the “z” consonant by American English speakers in words like “analyze” or “realize.” In British English, these words use the “s” consonant, even if, in terms of phonetics, the sound is closer to the American pronunciation.

By developing a different spelling of the English language, the American scholars eventually influenced the use of some words in the United Kingdom. As a result, in the 19th century, the English that was written and spoken in Europe dropped the “k” on the end of words such as “publick” or “musick.” It is just one of the few instances where a popularized dialect had a reverse influence over the originating language.