Reading English books is still one of THE best ways of improving your written language skills. It extends your vocabulary, exposes you to different writing techniques and most of all it allows you to effortlessly imprint the correct spelling of hundreds of words without you having to actively try and memorise them.

It doesn’t really matter what kind of books you’re into. Whether you’re digging deep into the history of world war I and II, melting away over a romantic comedy or even if it’s just the odd gossip magazine you like to browse through. They all end up teaching you something. But...there is also a slight catch. Unless you specifically restrict yourself to reading material with either British or American spelling, you are bound to end up with an eclectic mix of both.

The differences are subtle and whilst this is indeed not an issue when it comes down to verbal communication, it can be an easy way to stand out from the crowd in the Business world later on. Even if you don’t plan on living abroad one day, chances are that sooner or later in your career you will need to write something that is targeted at a specific group of native English speakers - and that’s when it matters. You don’t want to be “criticised” or “criticized” for choosing the wrong option. Instead you want to be “recognised” as well as “recognized” for knowing the difference and scoring brownie points with that potentially new client who appreciates that you pay attention to those fine details.

To give you a head start, we’ve collected some of the main spelling differences for you below. In addition to that you will also find a link to an extensive list of words spelled both ways at the end of this article.


Words that end in –re in Britain often have those two letters reversed when spelled in American English. Here are some examples:

British English: centre, fibre, litre, theatre

American English: center, fiber, liter, theater


While the British use the –nce ending, Americans generally prefer –nse.

British English: defence, licence, offence, pretence

American English: defense, license, offense, pretense


British English: apologise, organise, recognise

American English: apologize, organize, recognize


In the United States, the “u” is dropped from the word.

British English: behaviour, colour, humour, labour, neighbour, flavour

American English: behavior, color, humor, labor, neighbor, flavor

Double vowels “ae” and “oe”

These words have Greek or Latin roots and were brought into the English language as far back as the 14th and 15th centuries. Whilst the British retained the original spelling the American terminology has been simplified.

British English: manoeuvre, oestrogen, paediatric

American English: maneuver, estrogen, Pediatric

Words ending in a vowel plus –l

British English - Double L: travelling, travelled, traveller, fuelled, fuelling

American English - Single L: traveling, traveled, traveler, fueled, fueling

As promised, here is access to a comprehensive list of American and British spelling differences:

We hope you find it useful!

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