(British VS American spelling)

Depending on which English-speaking country you live in, there are many instances where spellings or usages differ.
Generally, Australia uses ‘International English’ not ‘American English’ or if a choice exists between an American spelling and a British spelling, Australian publishers usually go with British, unless their audience is made up of a majority of US readers. By the way, in Australia we write US or USA, but in American English it takes periods as follows: U.S. or U.S.A.

For more on the differences between British and US English, please see the Australian eBook Publisher blog articles on this topic:

Some examples of Australian English spelling

  • We prefer defence (British) over defense (American)
  • We prefer OU over O in many words, including behaviour (not behavior), favour (not favor), mould (not mold), honour (not honor), labour (not labor), colour (not color), saviour (not savior). Some exceptions occur if the word is meant to be spelled with an OR ending such as Australian Labor Party.
  • We prefer RE endings to words instead of ER endings, including litre (not liter), metre (not meter), centre (not center), etc.
  • We prefer 'practice' for the noun and 'practise' for the verb as opposed to the American English preference for ‘practice’ in either situation.
  • We prefer ‘licence’ for the noun and ‘license’ for the verb as opposed to the American English preference for ‘license’ in either situation.
  • ‘Ton’ vs ‘tonne’ is not an American vs British spelling issue. ‘Ton’ is the imperial or non-metric version, ‘tonne’ is the metric equivalent (1,000 kg exactly).
  • ‘ise’/‘ize’ ending words (also ‘yze’)
    Like British English, Australian English prefers ‘ise’ endings over ‘ize’. E.g. ‘harmonise’ and all its derivatives: ‘harmonisation’, ‘harmonising’. Other examples include advertise, advise, apprise, chastise, circumcise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disenfranchise, disfranchise, disguise, enfranchise, enterprise, excise, exercise, improvise, incise, organise, premise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise, televise.

Foreign words/phrases

As with jargon, which may not be meaningful to the widest variety of readers, foreign words should be used sparingly. Single foreign words should be unitalicised, unless they are definitely very uncommon in the English language (e.g. Lebensraum (italicised), but angst, canard (non-italicised)). However, foreign phrases should generally all be italicised (e.g. et al., ad hoc, per se, a priori).

Letters used as words

When referring to individual letters of the alphabet, the letters are put in quotation marks.

E.g. Do not include the letter ‘s’ in the form.
He put an ‘X’ on the spot.

Do not use quotation marks if the letters are in the plural form (i.e. with an apostrophe—see Pluralising of letters quoted as words, Apostrophes section).

E.g. There are many Xs in the writings of Philo.
Note: Where the letter represents a scientific symbol or chemical element, quote marks should not be used. i.e. Newton = N, not ‘N’; Oxygen = O, not ‘O’.

Middle ‘e’

Unlike American spelling, Australian English does not drop the middle ‘e’ in words like ‘judgment’ and ‘acknowledgment’. Therefore, we use ‘judgement’ (not ‘judgment) and ‘acknowledgement’ (not ‘acknowledgment’).

Spelling in quotations

When quoting verbatim from another written source, follow spelling and punctuation exactly as it was printed. If there is an error in what you are quoting, such as a word spelt incorrectly, add [sic] after the incorrect word.

‘st’ ending words
While ‘st’ endings are considered correct, some see them as a more archaic form of the words. Drop the ‘st’: among (not amongst), amid (not amidst), while (not whilst).

Please also see our alphabetical list of Australian spelling and grammar.

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