Spelling differences in US and UK English

American Culture 8 May 2010 | 6 Comments

Have you ever wondered why there are spelling differences between the US and UK? Here’s the reason…

Benjamin Franklin was one of the main people who pushed for the change. After the American revolution he and Noah Webster wanted to change the spelling of English to make it more easy to spell and closer to how it sounds. They also purposefully wanted to be different than British English.

The differences (The first example is US and the 2nd is UK):

Drop u from -our words – color vs. colour
Drop duplicate consonants – traveler vs. traveller
Transpose r and e – center vs. centre
Change the c to s – defense vs. defence
There are other changes/reforms as well.

There were other spellings that did not make it in the dictionary (and I’m glad too because they are bizarre). Here are a few examples:

Drop silent vowels in word like bread. So, they wanted it spelled like ‘bred.’
Replace some vowels and consonants to be written like they sound. Instead of ‘rough’ they wanted ‘ruf’.
Replace ch with k. They wanted chorus to be korus.

Celce-Murcia, Marianne, et al. 1996. Teaching Pronunciation. Cambridge University Press (New York).

6 Responses on “Spelling differences in US and UK English”

  1. Even if it sounds weird, it would be easier for spanish people to learn English in that way. If a word was written as it sounds, like in Spanish, probably all my classmates would pass English tests and writings. Some of them have serious problems with it…

  2. Yvonne says:

    I completely agree with that Gabriel. I remember when I was teaching my kids how to read. And they would ask why is it spelled this way or that way.

    Spelling is so difficult for so many native English speakers too. So, it is a shame they didn’t make those changes way back when…

    I do know why English has such bizarre spellings. I’ll write a post on it tomorrow or Monday. It’s very interesting.

  3. That’s why you have spelling bees, isn’t it?

  4. Yvonne says:

    Do you guys not have them? I never really thought about it. But, I guess you are right. English is difficult to spell, so it makes for a good competition.

  5. Lisa Watson says:

    Do Canadians follow the American English spelling or the British? I find myself doing both – leaving the u in and then changing s to c “defence” – I’d like to get it right.

  6. Yvonne says:

    Hi Lisa,
    My husband is Canadian and he said they follow British spellings more so, but in reality, they use both spellings – American and British. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions.

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