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.
|Have (to) |
I have a new job.
I have to go.
|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|
|-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|
|Quarter past (six)||Quarter after (six)|
|Half past six||Six thirty|
|Ten to six||Ten to, till, or before six|
|Car park||Parking lot|
|Ground floor||First Floor|
|Expiry Date||Expiration Date|
|Yours Sincerely,||Sincerely Yours,|
|Yours Faithfully, |
(when person addressed is not known)
|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|
|Wing mirror||Rearview mirror|
Learn more: UK/US Automotive Terms
Legal / Business Vocabulary
|Solicitor / Barrister||Lawyer, Attorney|
|Managing Director||CEO (Chief Executive Officer)|
Learn more: UK/US Financial Terms
5 Tips for Clear, Concise English Translation
7 Steps to Quality Translation