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?”

Compound Nouns

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

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
Programme Program
Kerb Curb
Grey Gray

General Vocabulary

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)

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!

5 Tips for Clear, Concise English Translation
7 Steps to Quality Translation