Spelling. Conventions

    The content of these guidelines is taken from the third edition of the Vives University Network’s Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participates with the support of the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia.


    Differences in spelling between British and American English

      • For most general purposes, there is little significant difference between British and American English in written texts. In practically all circumstances, any text written in standard British English will be comprehensible to an American reader, and vice versa.
      • British usage historically accepts both the -ise and -ize spellings, but the former is now more frequently used in a broad range of publications.
      • Therefore, we recommend that the -ise/-yse/-isation forms be used, except where the context specifically requires American spelling.
      • The following summary lists the well-known and now commonly accepted distinctions in British/American spelling.

        British English
        American English
        -ce (defence) -se (defense)
        -isation (nationalisation) -ization (nationalization)
        -ise (realise) -ize (realize)
        -our (colour) -or (color)
        -re (centre) -er (center)
        -yse (analyse) -yze (analyze)

      • However, note that size and capsize are never written with -ise in British English.
      • Also, note that British usage has the form programme (as opposed to the American program) except when referring to computer code, in which case program is preferred.



    • Although the æ/œ spelling (known as a ligature, in which two or more letters are graphically combined) for forms such as œstrogen or cæsium is still in use in British English, this is now not universally the case for most other words that were traditionally written with a ligature; these words now have a single written vowel that substitutes the older æ form (medieval and encyclopedia being well-known examples).
    • Opt for the simplified spelling for all such words.


    Double consonants before suffixes

    • Where consonants are doubled for monosyllabic words (basically, after a short vowel and immediately before a suffix beginning with a vowel such as -ing, -er, -est or -ed), British and American English spelling is the same.

    flat flattest
    stop stoppable
    shop shopping


    • For words of more than one syllable, however, differences between British and American usage can be complicated.


    The letter l

    • As an indication for when to double this final consonant in British English, we replicate the explanation given in Section 1.5 of the English Style Guide of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation (see Bibliography): "In British usage, a final -l is doubled after a short vowel on adding -ing or -ed to verbs (sole exception: parallel, paralleled) and adding -er to make nouns from verbs".

      Examples would include the following:

      Alumni membership growth will probably level off by the end of the year.
      The new rector has indicated as a priority the levelling-off of expenditure.

      All those wishing to travel on the new grant should contact the International Office.
      This regulation applies to administrative staff who travelled during the first semester.

      Model your task on one of the following diagrams.
      Project modellers will need a minimum of five years' experience.

    • In American English, except for multi-syllabic words ending in -al (final/finally; minimal/minimally), l is usually not doubled before a suffix.
    • Finally, there are certain words ending in -l in British English which double this consonant in American English:

      enrol-enroll; fulfil-fulfill; appal-appall
    • Note that the -l is accordingly doubled or not in derivatives ending in -ment:

      enrolment-enrollment; fulfilment-fulfillment


    Other consonants

    • Usage may vary considerably between British and American English in the doubling of a consonant other than l at the end of a word. If in doubt, consult a reliable English dictionary. However, the following observations generally hold for both variants. Consonants such as t or r double before -ed and -ing if the last syllable of the root word is stressed.

      The Department will admit students who meet the following requirements.
      The Dean admitted that faculty disruptions were inevitable.

      Students must submit their assignments in the agreed format.
      Applicants who are submitting their papers in June should fill in the following form

      The Rector will confer an honorary doctorate on two renowned sociologists.
      The University has rarely conferred such degrees in this academic field

      The Faculty will refer all complaints to the Dean.
      Reliable international research should be referred to for clarification.

    • In contrast to this, for two-syllable words whose first syllable is stressed, the final consonant is not doubled.

      benefit benefited benefited
      combat combating combated
      focus focusing focused
      target targeting targeted

    • In British English the exception to this are two-syllable words ending in -p, where the final consonant is doubled even when the principal stress is on the first syllable.

      This groundbreaking project studies forms of primitive worship that are still prevalent.
      The study shows how animate and inanimate objects were worshipped indistinctly.