- Spelling differences (e.g., use of “-er” vs. “-re” endings)
- Punctuation differences (e.g., conventions related to quotation marks, commas, and abbreviations)
- Verb conjugation differences (e.g., treatment of collective nouns and irregular verbs)
- Word choice differences (e.g., “elevator” vs. “lift”)
There are also many differences in the pronunciation and intonation of spoken English in different regions; this article focuses only on the differences in written English.
Main differences between American and British English
Punctuation differences between American and British English
Collective nouns in American and British English
Word choice differences between American and British English
Oxford style: British English with some differences
This style largely follows the conventions of British English but gives a few recommendations that are more in line with American English. It’s widely used by international organizations such as the UN, UNESCO, and the WHO as a middle ground between the two variants.
The points where Oxford style differs from British English (and American English) are summarized in the table below. On all other points, Oxford style follows standard British English conventions.
Other national variants of English
- Canadian English 🇨🇦
- Australian English 🇦🇺
- New Zealand English 🇳🇿
- Indian English 🇮🇳
Of the other three, Canada leans furthest toward American English, since it’s geographically so close to the US. Australia and New Zealand more closely follow British conventions, though with some differences. Each variant also has some unique vocabulary unlikely to be encountered in other regions.
The QuillBot Grammar Checker (along with other QuillBot tools) currently has settings for Canadian and Australian English, in addition to American and British English. For New Zealand English, we recommend using the Australian setting; for Indian English, use the British setting. Use the flag icon in the top right corner to choose a setting.
Choosing a variant and being consistent
If you’re writing in some other context (e.g., a personal blog), make a choice based on personal preference or the audience you want to reach. No version of English is “better” than another; the important thing is to be consistent in the version of English you use.
Being careless about your spelling and punctuation choices and using a random mix of conventions from different variants of English will make your text look messy and annoy some readers:
✗ The defense minister first travelled to China in 2013.
✓ The defense minister first traveled to China in 2013.
✓ The defence minister first travelled to China in 2013.
Additionally, make sure that the same spelling rule is followed consistently when there’s a choice. For instance, although both -ise and -ize spellings are acceptable in British English, your text should stick to one or the other, not use a mixture of the two:
✗ The organization allowed me some time to acclimatize to the new surroundings before organising my onboarding.
✓ The organization allowed me some time to acclimatize to the new surroundings before organizing my onboarding.
✓ The organisation allowed me some time to acclimatise to the new surroundings before organising my onboarding.
Recommended language articles
Frequently asked questions about British English and American English
Why is American English different from British English?
Spelling in English was not standardized before the 18th century, meaning that many words had several different spellings. In 1755, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language was published in the UK, standardizing spellings for the first time.
Meanwhile, Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language (the ancestor of Merriam-Webster) appeared in 1828 in the US. Webster disagreed with Johnson on various points of spelling, and Webster’s dictionary, not Johnson’s, was adopted as a guide to standard spelling for American English.
Neither Johnson nor Webster invented the spellings they recommended for British and American English; rather, they looked at the spellings that were in common use at the time and made decisions about which ones they regarded as most widespread and reasonable.
Different national variants of a language tend to develop differences because they evolve in isolation from each other over time. With modern globalization and American cultural influence, these differences are becoming smaller, although they still exist.
What is the difference between American English and British English?
American English is used in the US, while British English is used in the UK. The main differences between American English and British English relate to:
- Spelling (e.g., “Defense or defence,” “Fulfil or fulfill,” “Favorite or favourite”)
- Punctuation (e.g., use of the Oxford comma, use of dashes)
- Grammar (e.g., use of plural or singular verbs with collective nouns)
- Word choice (e.g., “elevator or lift,” “period or full stop”)
There are also many differences in pronunciation and colloquial language that are not relevant in the context of formal writing.