The PhraseBook has been written very much with international use in mind. It suggests ways to make your writing standard worldwide:
- Suitable for writing for all English-speaking countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa
- British and American alternatives marked throughout the PhraseBook
- Detailed list of British-US spelling differences given in the Writing Help section
- Writing Help on z- and s- spellings in words such as recognize, analyse, organization, compromise
- British and American differences in punctuation and vocabulary
British and American punctuation
‘Single’ or “double”?
Quotation marks can be single or double. They are written in the pattern 6-9 for single quotes and 66-99 for double quotes, for example:
|The Anti-Apartheid Movement campaigned for ‘One man, one vote’.
|The American Civil Rights Movement campaigned for “One man, one vote.”
You can use either single or double quotation marks, though you should of course be consistent. Your choice also depends on normal usage for your subject, journal or publisher. Generally, British English uses single quotation marks, and American English double quotation marks.
‘”Quotes” within quotes’
For quotes within quotes, use double quotation marks if you normally use single quotation marks, and single quotation marks if you normally use double quotation marks, for example:
|The Anti-Apartheid campaigner stated, ‘We will not rest until we achieve “One man, one vote” in South Africa’.
|The Civil Rights campaigner stated, “We will not rest until we achieve ‘One man, one vote’ in America.”
Punctuation at the end of quotations
British and American English differ in the position of commas and full stops or periods at the end of quotations. If you are writing in British English, place a full stop or comma inside the closing quotation mark if it is part of the quotation, and outside if it is not. If you are writing in American English, always place a period or comma inside the closing quotation mark. Compare the following examples:
|Comma (British English)
|‘Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.’
|It was all very well to say ‘Drink me’, but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry.
|Although the Anti-Apartheid and American Civil Rights Movements campaigned for ‘One man, one vote’, their slogan today would be ‘One person, one vote’.
|Comma (American English)
|“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
|It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry.
|Although the Anti-Apartheid and American Civil Rights Movements campaigned for “One man, one vote,” their slogan today would be “One person, one vote.”
In both British and American English, always place semicolons and colons outside the end of quotes:
|Semicolon and colon
|The American Declaration of Independence includes ‘the pursuit of happiness’; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes ‘the right to rest and leisure’ and the right to holidays with pay.
|‘To be or not to be,’ said Hamlet: ‘that is the question.’
In both American and British English, place a dash, question mark, exclamation mark (GB) or exclamation point (US) inside the final quotation mark if it is part of the quotation, and outside if it is not:
|Exclamation mark or exclamation point
|Employees soon understood the meaning of ‘downsizing’ — redundancy.
|The film version of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ starred Elizabeth Taylor.
|What can we say about Virginia Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’?
There are sometimes differences between British and American English in punctuating abbreviations. Generally speaking, American English uses more punctuation with abbreviations than British English. For example, in American English a full stop or period is often used in:
But in British English it is usually omitted:
Some American authorities, including Merriam-Webster and the Council of Science Editors, also recommend forms without a full stop or period in some cases.
In both British and American English, full stops or periods are often omitted in acronyms, i.e. words made of letters from a longer name or title:
Commas with etc., e.g. and i.e.
A comma may be used after i.e. and e.g. and before etc., especially in American English:
|With a comma
|Smith’s paper, i.e., her most recent work, has been widely cited.
|Several American writers, e.g., Herman Melville, Tennessee Williams, Walt Whitman, spring to mind.
|Several American writers – Herman Melville, Tennessee Williams, Walt Whitman, etc. – spring to mind.
Or not, especially in British English:
|Without a comma
|Smith’s paper, i.e. her most recent work, has been widely cited.
|Several British writers, e.g. Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, spring to mind.
|Several British writers – Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer etc. – spring to mind.
British and American spellings
The differences in writing between British and American English are small. Apart from minor spelling, vocabulary and punctuation differences, written English is essentially the same worldwide: as well as British and American English, national varieties such as Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, Irish and South African English also have only minor differences, particularly in writing. Similarly, differences in speech should not be exaggerated: there is greater variation in spoken English between London and Glasgow than between London, San Francisco, Cape Town or Sydney.
A number of spelling and vocabulary differences in British and American English are listed below.
-ou- and -o-
|glamour or glamor
|mold or mould
|some meanings rigour
|savior or saviour
|smolder or smoulder
-ae- and -e-
|aesthetic also esthetic
|archaeology or archeology
|faeces also feces
|palae(o)- or pale(o)-
-oe- and -e-
|amoeba or ameba
-ph- and -f-
-pp- and -p-
|worshiping or worshipping
|worshiped or worshipped
|worshiper or worshipper
-ll- and -l-
|counseling or counselling
|equaling or equalling
|labeling or labelling
|signaling or signalling
|totaling or totalling
|canceled or cancelled
|fueled or fuelled
|leveled or levelled
|libeled or libelled
|modeled or modelled
|tunneled or tunnelled
|counselor or counsellor
|traveler or traveller
|tranquillize or tranquillise
|woolen or woollen
-l- and -ll-
|enroll or enrol
|fulfill or fulfil
|willful or wilful
-c and -k
|leucocyte or leukocyte
-qu and -ck
-xion and -ction
|inflection or inflexion
-ce and -se
|a licence, to license
|license or licence
|offense or offence
|a practice, to practise
|practice or practise
|pretense or pretence
-re and -er
|caliber or calibre
|fiber or fibre
|litre, millilitre etc.
|luster or lustre
|meager or meagre
|some meanings metre
|measuring device meter
|miter or mitre
|saber or sabre
|sepulchre or sepulcher
|theater or theatre
Long and short endings
|analogue and analog
|catalog or catalogue
|gram or gramme etc.
|fall or autumn
|some meanings draught