UK and US English – what’s the difference

I read many manuscripts in my work at Beyond The Vale Publishing from within South Africa and without and I note there are often times where the spelling is wrong because it is US English.

I was curious why the spelling is inconsistent between UK English that is used in the UK and throughout most of the Commonwealth and US English.

Way back on 4 July 1776, 13 American colonies declared their independence from British rule. 30 years later, in 1806 a man called Noah Webster wrote the first American English dictionary – A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. A new nation seeking their identity and language changed some of the spellings.

One theory is that the Americans favoured keeping the spelling simple and more consistent with the Latin, whereas the British favoured the more French and German heritage of many of the English words, meaning they kept some letters – such as the “u” in colour.

So what words are impacted?

There are many different classes of words that are spelt differently in UK English compared to US English:

Words ending in “our” are spelt “or” in US English:

For example – color, honor, favor

Words ending in “yse” are spelt “yze” in US English:

For example – Analyze, breathalyze

Verbs that have a “ll” are often spelt with a single “l” – for example:

Traveled, leveled

Words ending “ence” are spelt with “ense” in US English:

For example Defense, offense

These are just examples, there are others as well.

So when should I write in US and when in UK English

My advise would be – consider your audience. If your book is going on Amazon for the US audience then consider US English. A printed work for the South African market – consider UK English. Personally, I write a version of my books as both US and UK English for both markets.

If you have any questions about this or any other publishing of self-publishing topics, drop me an email at