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It can be difficult to know the difference between American and British spellings when it comes to writing copy. If you’re untrained in the art, then the differences can be so small that they go completely unnoticed, meaning that your British copy could be riddled with Americanisms. This is usually because our word processing programmes are automatically set to American English, as are these AI tools that generate copy for you. So what should you look out for in your British copy? Let’s take you through some spellings to avoid:


1. Dropping ‘ae’ or ‘ea’ from common words

American words don’t usually contain any additional or unnecessary letters in their spellings. One example of this is dropping the British ‘ae’ or ‘ea’ letter combinations from words such as ‘Encyclopaedia’, ‘anaemia’, or ‘diarrhoea’. The American version of these words would be as follows, without the ‘ae’ or ‘ea’: ‘encycopedia’, ‘anemia’ and ‘diarrhea’. Unless your word processing programme is set to American English, then it should flag these words up as being misspelt (rather than ‘misspelled’, which would be the American version of the same word) in your copy. 


2. Using ‘ed’ instead of ‘t’ at the end of verbs

I’ve briefly highlighted this issue in the previous point with my example of ‘misspelt’ rather than ‘misspelled’, but the examples continue to go on. Where British English would use words like ‘burnt’, ‘dreamt’ and ‘leapt’, Americans would spell these words slightly differently, like so: ‘burned’, ‘dreamed’ and ‘leaped’. Avoid using ‘ed’ at the end of your verbs if you’re looking to write solely British copy. Alternatively, if you’re a British copywriter tasked with writing for an American client, then swap the ‘t’ for the ‘ed’ instead.


3. Using an ‘s’ rather than a ‘c’ for certain words

It can be difficult to know which words should contain an ‘s’ over a ‘c’ when it comes to British and American English. It’s something that many copywriters will struggle with unless you have been trained in the art of spotting unwanted Americanisms in your British copy. Where the Brits will spell the following words using a ‘c’ instead of an ‘s’, the Americans will do the opposite: ‘defence’ becomes ‘defense’, ‘offence’ becomes ‘offense’ and ‘licence’ becomes ‘license’.


4. Not using a double ‘l’ 

Words are often spelt with double ‘l’s in British English, but Americans seemingly see no need for the repetition instead dropping one of the ‘l’s for simplicity. The words you want to avoid using in your British copy are: ‘marvelous’, jeweler’ and ‘canceled’, to name a few. Instead, you should spell them as follows: ‘marvellous’, ‘jeweller’ and ‘cancelled’.


5. Throwing ‘z’s in left, right & centre

The number one rule in British copy is to avoid the use of a ‘z’ at all costs. In fact, this is one of the tell-tale signs that AI has been used, especially if it’s been “written” by a British copywriter. ‘Z’ words need to be avoided at all costs when it comes to writing British copy. As such, stop using ‘appetizer’, ‘familairize’ and ‘organize’ and swap those spellings out for ‘appetiser’ (or better still, a ‘starter’ as an appetiser is known in the UK), ‘familiarise’ and ‘organise’.

6. Adding an ‘l’ where there only needs to be one

I know what you’re thinking; “you said earlier to use a double ‘l’ and not a single ‘ l’ when it comes to writing British copy”, and you would be right, but there are some instances in British spelling that call for only one ‘l’ as opposed to the American need to use two. For example, Americans will spell the following words like this: ‘enroll’, ‘fulfill’ and ‘skillfull’. 

However, in British English, these words are spelt like this: ‘enrol’, ‘fulfil’ and ‘skilful’. Despite being a little confusing after point number four, it’s a perfect example of how similar-yet-different American and British English can be, which is why it’s important that you’re aware of the differences between the two before writing British copy.


7. Neglecting the ‘ue’ letter combination 

As we’ve discussed already, the American language usually drops silent letters and other letter combinations that may be deemed unnecessary. If the word functions adequately without it, they just won’t use it, and the same goes for ‘ue’ letter couplings. For example, British English will use words like: ‘catalogue’, ‘analogue’ and ‘monologue’. However, when it comes to American English, they will spell those words the following way: ‘catalog’, ‘analog’ and ‘monolog’. 


8. Forgetting to use ‘ou’ where needed

Much like the ‘ue’ letter combination, the ‘ou’ letter coupling is also commonly missed when an untrained writer generates British copy. Much like when it comes to the use of the letter ‘z’, it’s another common sign that AI has been used by a British copywriter to generate fast and convenient copy that is lacking in quality and personality. If you want it to be more authentic, then you need to make sure you’re spelling the following words like this: ‘colour’, ‘behaviour’ and ‘mould’, rather than in this way: ‘color’, ‘behavior’ and ‘mold’. 


9. Getting ‘re’ and ‘er’ the wrong way round

American spellings will use ‘er’, usually at the end of certain words. However, when it comes to British copy, ‘re’ is used instead. As such these American spellings can be easily changed to the British spelling by simply switching those letters around; ‘center’ becomes ‘centre’, ‘meter’ becomes ‘metre’ and ‘fiber’ becomes ‘fibre’. 


10. Using an ‘i’ instead of a ‘y’

The only word that can be commonly mispelt in this way is ‘tyre’. In British copy we would use a ‘y’ in the middle rather than an ‘i’ when it comes to the spelling of ‘tyre’. Despite being a small difference, it’s still a word that is frequently misspelt, more so when writing British copy.


Kumo is a highly-experienced digital marketing agency with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the industry. If you’re looking to propel your business into the spotlight, then look no further than Kumo for first-class SEO, PPC, content writing and website design services, to name just a few of the things we do. Get in touch with a member of our team at a time to suit you – we’re always pleased to hear from you.


Author Biography


As an experienced Copywriter, Lorna enjoys creating varied content for an abundance of different industries and sectors. From detailed, informative articles to creative infographics, she's always looking to inject originality into the work she produces. When she isn't working, Lorna runs her own lifestyle blog, plays the guitar and loves to take part in charity runs.