Here’s a look at American English. We’re celebrating Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s 50th anniversary so this is a salute to Mike Teavee and Violet Beauregarde - cast as Americans in the film adaptations.
Your writing may find an American market – check for ambiguity with this top thirty:
Aerial / antenna
Autumn / fall
Bonnet / hood
Bumper / fender
Candy floss / cotton candy
Chemist / druggist
Chips / fries
Class (school) / grade
Crisps (potato) / chips
Curtains / drapes
Drawing pin / thumbtack
Dustbin / trash can or garbage can
First floor / second floor
Full stop / period
Handbag / purse
Holiday / vacation
Nappy / diaper
Pavement / sidewalk
Petrol / gas
Pushchair / stroller
Shoelace / shoestring
Shop / store
Sweets / candy
Tap / faucet
Term / semester
Trousers / pants
Twice / two times
Wardrobe / closet
Windscreen / windshield
There are, of course, many more.
It’s worth being familiar with the differences:
Our and or
behaviour / behavior, colour / color, favourite / favorite, flavour / flavor, harbour / harbor, honour / honor, humour / humor, labour / labor, neighbour / neighbor, rumour / rumour.
Re and er
Centre / center, fibre / fiber, lustre / luster, litre / liter, metre / meter, meagre / meager, theatre / theater.
Ogue and og
Analogue / analog, catalogue / catalog, dialogue / dialog, monologue / monolog.
Single l and double ll
There’s a mixture of spellings in US and British English for words with l, for instance jewellery / jewelry and traveller / traveler. Americans often use a single l at the end of a word except for enroll, fulfill and enthrall.
Just to confuse things, in British English these have a single l. Install has double ll in American English, but can have one or two in British English.
Nce and nse
Defence / defense, offence / offense, pretence / pretense. And licence / license, practice / practise, so no distinction between the noun and the verb with American spelling.
Ise and ize, yse and yze
British spelling includes:
Capitalise, characterise, criticise, customise, italicise, memorise, organise, realise, recognise, scrutinise, vandalise and analyse, catalyse, paralyse.
The BBC and most British newspapers use ise and yse as above, but Oxford University Press uses ize and yse, for historical and etymological reasons.
American spelling includes:
Capitalize, characterize, criticize, customize, italicize, memorize, organize, realize, recognize scrutinize, vandalize and analyze, catalyze, paralyze.
There are exceptions to this in American and Oxford spelling including: advise, arise, advertise, comprise, despise, exercise, revise, supervise and televise – which are always spelled with ise.
Artefact / artifact, draught / draft, doughnut / donut, gauge / gage, grey / gray, manoeuvre / maneuver, mould / mold, programme / program, pyjamas / pajamas, plough / plow, sceptical / skeptical.
And finally, an interesting anomaly
At a meeting, using British English, to “table” something or “bring it to the table” means to add it to the agenda, for discussion. In American English saying “we’ll table that” means setting it to one side, or removing it from the discussion. Probably more relevant to the worlds of business and politics than children’s literature, but worth knowing.
Catriona Tippin aka @ProofReadingTip will be back next month with more proofreading tips. To see previous tips, click on this proofreading link.
Catriona Tippin has been a member of SCBWI since 2006 and helps organise venues for SCBWI North East. Details of her writing and illustrating here. She proofreads study guides, house magazines and publicity material for two national educational charities, in addition to working on a variety of proofreads and copyedits for the growing self-published world. Her monthly column is intended to give you food for thought, remembering “Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling or typographical error” (McKean’s Law, named after its inventor Erin McKean, editor of the Oxford American Dictionary).