Unit 7.1

Words with alternative spelling

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Words with alternative spelling are words that you can spell in two ways. Certain words are spelt differently in British and American English.


British English spellingAmerican English spelling
centre, theatre, metrecenter, theater, meter
licence, defence, pretencelicense, defense, pretense
organise, customise, realiseorganize, customize, realize
honour, colour, humourhonor, color, humor
leukaemia, maneouvre, paediatricleukemia, maneuver, pediatric
cancelled, marvellous, travellercanceled, marvelous, traveler


  1. re/er
  • Br. centre, Am. center
  • Br. theatre, Am. theater
  • Br. metre, Am. meter

2. –nce/nse

  • Br. licence, Am. license
  • Br. defence, Am. defense
  • Br. pretence, Am pretense

3. –ise/ize

  • Br. organise, Am. organize
  • Br. customise, Am. customize
  • Br. realise, Am. realize

4. –our/-or

  • Br. honour, Am. honor
  • Br. colour, Am. color
  • Br. humour Am. humor

5. Double vowels “ae” and “oe

  • Br. leukaemia, Am. leukemia
  • Br. maneouvre, Am. maneuver
  • Br. paediatric, Am. pediatric

6. Words ending in a vowel plus –ll/l

  • Br. cancelled, Am. canceled
  • Br. marvellous, Am. marvelous
  • Br. traveller, Am. traveler


Here are the main spelling alterations between British and American English:

  1. re/er
  2. nce/nse
  3. ise/ize
  4. our/or
  5. Double vowels “ae” and “oe
  6. Words ending in a vowel plus –ll/l
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