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Australian Vs American English: 6 Essential Spelling Differences

When discussing the Australian vs American English, it’s easy to get caught up in the obvious pronunciation variations. However, spelling differences play a significant role as well and deserve equal attention. Australian English tends to follow the British spelling rules, which can be seen as more traditional or conservative. On the other hand, American English favours simplification, streamlining many words that can seem cumbersome in their British forms. This divergence reflects not just regional preferences but also the dynamic nature of language as it evolves and adapts to different cultures.

Here are 6 crucial Australian vs. American English spelling rules to learn and remember.

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1. Summarise Vs. Summarize

The distinction between “summarise” and “summarize” exemplifies a notable spelling divergence between Australian and American English. In America, the preference for the “z” in “summarize” and similar words reflects not just a spelling choice but a phonetic one, aiming to mirror the more vibrant pronunciation that “z” offers, particularly in rapid speech where “s” sounds can blend smoothly into vowels. This choice emphasizes a clearer, more distinct sound that aligns with the American accent’s characteristics. Conversely, Australian English, following British tradition, opts for the “s” in “summarise,” adhering to a more conservative spelling approach that doesn’t necessarily seek to replicate pronunciation nuances in the same way.

More Examples:

Australian: organise, recognise, apologise

American: organize, recognize, apologize

2. Traveller Vs. Traveler

The difference in spelling between “traveller” and “traveler” showcases another rule where Australian English aligns with British spelling, doubling consonants where American English does not. This pattern emerges in words where the final consonant follows a short vowel in a stressed syllable. While British and Australian English double the consonant before adding endings like “-ing” or “-ed,” American English typically does not.

More Examples:

Australian: travelling, cancelled, fuelled

American: traveling, canceled, fueled

3. Colour Vs. Color

The difference between “colour” and “color” highlights American English’s inclination towards simplification by omitting letters that are no longer pronounced. This approach aims for efficiency, reflecting a step away from historical spellings that include silent or unpronounced letters, a remnant of English’s French influences. In contrast, Australian English maintains the traditional “ou” spelling, following British conventions.

More Examples:

Australian: flavour, honour, labour
American: flavor, honor, labor

4. Centre Vs. Center

“Centre” versus “center” underscores American English’s preference for phonetic spelling. While “centre” is used in Australian English, preserving the original French and Latin spelling, American English opts for “center.” This alteration is guided by a desire for spellings that closely match pronunciation, making the language more accessible and straightforward.

More Examples:

Australian: theatre, metre, litre

American: theater, meter, liter

5. Enrol Vs. Enroll

In an interesting reversal of the “traveller” vs. “traveler” pattern, when it comes to words like “enrol” vs. “enroll,” the roles are flipped. Australian and British English typically spell this word with a single “l,” as in “enrol” and “enrolment.” In contrast, American English doubles the “l,” resulting in “enroll” and “enrollment.”

More Examples:

Australian: fulfil, instalment, wilful

American: fulfill, installment, willful

6. Likeable Vs Likable

American English often drops the final “e” before adding a suffix, aiming for a more streamlined and simplified spelling. Meanwhile, Australian English, following the British tradition, keeps the silent “e,” which maintains its connection to the base word’s spelling.

More Examples:

Australian: acknowledgement, ageing, judgement,

American: acknowledgment, aging, judgment

Navigating Australian vs. American English spelling rules can be quite the adventure. Whether you’re intrigued by the linguistic twists or aiming to perfect your spelling for professional writing, mastering these subtleties can significantly enrich your command of the English language.

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At Listen & Learn, we invite you to dive deeper into the fascinating world of English with us. Our team of native Australian teachers is ready to guide you, whether you’re planning to work in Australia or simply wish to polish your email writing skills and pronunciation. We understand the importance of getting these details right, not just for the sake of correctness, but to truly connect and communicate effectively in different English-speaking environments.

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