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.
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.)
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?”
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
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.
-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
I’ve just gotten over a cold
Past participle of Dive: Dived
He dived into the pool
He dove into the pool
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.
I have a new job.
I have to go.
At the weekend
On the weekend
Play in a team
Play on a team
In the hospital
Monday to Friday
Monday through Friday
Fill in a form
Fill out a form
Write to someone
At the back
In the back
-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
-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
Quarter past (six)
Quarter after (six)
Half past six
Ten to six
Ten to, till, or before six
(when person addressed is not known)
Family Practitioner / Physician
Chemist / Chemist’s
Pharmacist, Drugstore / Pharmacy
*Refer to Spelling: British medical terms consistently use – ae and – oe.
Learn more: UK/US Medical Degrees
Automotive / Technical Vocabulary
Lorry/ articulated lorry
Learn more: UK/US Automotive Terms
Legal / Business Vocabulary
Solicitor / Barrister
CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
Learn more: UK/US Financial Terms