The Complete Guide to British and American English

This comprehensive guide is designed to help translators and proofreaders navigate through the many differences between British and American English in formatting, grammar, spelling and vocabulary.

For two countries that many still claim to speak the same language, the differences between British and American English are surprisingly extensive. From punctuation to idioms, they are vast and varied, fully capable of affecting meaning and causing confusion. Worse still is their ability to break the emotional connection between the reader and the message of the translation. A simple spelling mistake, a z instead of an s for example, is sure to make your reader think, “this is not intended for me”.

All into-English translators need to be aware of these key differences. Adapting your translation to the specific demands of British or American English is a simple yet essential method to ensure that your English translation is both accurate and effective.

 

Formatting


 

UK

US

DD/MM/YY               17 February 2017

MM/DD/YY               February 17, 2017

Full stop + am/pm    

9.30 am (AM, PM/a.m., p.m.)

Colon + am/pm  

9:30 am (AM, PM/a.m., p.m.)

 

Punctuation


 

UK

US

No full stop after titles         Dr Mr Mrs Ms

Full stop after titles          Dr. Mr. Mrs. Ms.

Lowercase number abbreviation    no. 5790

Capitalised number abbreviation   No. 5790

Only uses Oxford comma at the end of a list for clarification

I had eggs, toast and orange juice.

Almost always uses Oxford comma

I had eggs, toast, and orange juice.

Punctuation outside quotation marks (unless it is part of the spoken sentence).

“Hello”, she said, “How are you today?”

Punctuation inside quotation marks

“Hello,” she said, “How are you today?”

 

Compound Nouns


 

UK

US

Always uses hyphens for compound adjectives before a noun          

a print-out presentation

Tends to make compound words

  a printout presentation

Gerund + Noun            Skipping Rope

Infinitive + Noun         Jump rope

 

 

 

Collective Nouns


 

UK

US

Usually plural – A group is typically thought of as a group of individuals

The committee were unable to agree.

Liverpool are winning!

Muse are a great band.

The Beatles are playing at Wembley.

 

Almost always singular, excluding plural sports teams and band names

The committee was unable to agree.

Liverpool is winning!

The Patriots are winning!

Muse is a great band.

The Beatles are playing at Wembley.

 

 

 

Verbs


 

UK

US

-t endings in past tense   learnt, dreamt

-ed endings in past tense  learned, dreamed

Prefers present perfect

    I’ve just had dinner.

Prefers past tense over present perfect

  I just had dinner.

Past participle of get: Got                         

I’ve just got over a cold

Gotten            

I’ve just gotten over a cold

Past participle of Dive: Dived                 

He dived into the pool

Dove              

He dove into the pool

Shall

I shall be there at 6.

Shall we go?

Will or Should

I will be there at 6.

Should we go?

Have Got (to)

I’ve got a new job.

I’ve got to go.

Have (to)

I have a new job.

I have to go.

 

 

Prepositions


 

UK

US

At the weekend

On the weekend

Play in a team

Play on a team

In hospital

In the hospital

Monday to Friday

Monday through Friday

Fill in a form

Fill out a form

Write to someone

Write someone

At the back

In the back

 

 

 

Spelling


 

UK

US

-ll          travelled, levelled

-l            traveled, leveled

-re         centre, litre, theatre

-er         center, liter, theater

-our       colour, favour

-or         color, favor

-ce         licence, defence,

-se         license, defense

-ise        summarise, organise

-ize        summarize, organize

-lyse      analyse

-lyze      analyze

-ae         aetiology, anaemia, haemoglobin

-e          etiology, anemia, hemoglobin

-oe         foetus, oedema, oesophagus

-e          fetus, edema, esophagus

-ogue     dialogue, analogue

-og        dialog, analog

-ph         Sulphate, Sulphur

-f           Sulfate, Sulfur

Programme

Program

Kerb

Curb

Grey

Gray

 

General Vocabulary


 

UK

US

Quarter past (six)

Quarter after (six)

Half past six

Six thirty

Ten to six

Ten to, till, or before six

Anticlockwise

Counter-clockwise

Fortnight

Two weeks

Postcode

Zip code

Telephone/Tel.

Phone

Post

Mail

Timetable

Schedule

Car park

Parking lot

Queue

Line

Full stop

Period

Nought/zero

Zero

CV

Resume

Holiday

Vacation

Booking

Reservation

City Centre

Downtown

Flat

Apartment

Lift

Elevator

Ground floor

First Floor

Expiry Date

Expiration Date

Engaged

Busy

Yours Sincerely,

Sincerely Yours,

Yours Faithfully,

(when person addressed is not known)

Sincerely,

 

 

Medical Vocabulary


 

General Practitioner

Family Practitioner / Physician

Chemist / Chemist’s

Pharmacist, Drugstore / Pharmacy

Clinical Trial

Clinical Study

 

 

*Refer to Spelling: British medical terms consistently use – ae and – oe.

Learn more: UK/US Medical Degrees

 

Automotive / Technical Vocabulary


 

Lorry/ articulated lorry

Truck/tractor-trailer

Caravan

Trailer

Boot

Trunk

Bonnet

Hood

Tyre

Tire

Petrol

Gas

Gear lever

Gearshift

Silencer

Muffler

Windscreen

Windshield

Wing mirror

Rearview mirror

Indicators

Blinkers

Motorway

Highway/ freeway/expressway

Zebra crossing

Crosswalk

Pavement

Sidewalk

Torch

Flashlight

Mobile

Cellphone

 Learn more: UK/US Automotive Terms

 

Legal / Business Vocabulary


 

Solicitor / Barrister

Lawyer, Attorney

Managing Director

CEO (Chief Executive Officer)

Estate Agent

Realtor

Cheque

Check

Learn more: UK/US Financial Terms

 

Read more!

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