Proofreading Tips: Americanisms

Catriona Tippin

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. 

Miscellaneous spellings 

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). 


  1. This is a fascinating topic, something I'm always coming across in correspondence with friends and clients over the pond. Which is "correct"? Neither of course, or rather, both. English has moved on in both languages since the 250 years we went our separate ways. Some US spellings are actually more 'authentic' to the 18th Century roots of our language. But I still can't get over the lack of 'u' in color, and all those modern US recycling of words such as "awesome" "cool" etc etc.. no no no!!!

  2. Hi John - it's interesting that 'gotten' has survived in American English from Elizabethan English (Shakespeare has Richard II's groom say "With much ado at length have gotten leave too look upon my sometimes royal master's face"). It indicates acquisition rather than ownership - in British English we've lost that distinction, we've just got got. Also 'fall' is the much older (and more appropriate?) word than 'autumn'. How did that catch on?

  3. Not only are these great lists, Catriona but potentially very useful plot points!
    Thank you

    1. I'm intrigued - perhaps a plot involving a misunderstanding about a purse, some chips and a pair of pants?

  4. Really very good proofreading tips i suggest to those student who has weak language thanks for share it english proofreading service


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