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US English Style Guide

Spelling and Expression Guide

American English has a lot of dialects and variations depending on geography, ranging from Pacific Northwest to Inland Northern to Southern, but for most purposes, “General American” will suit. These are just a few of the main rules to follow when trying to write or edit an English text for American English.

Common spelling styles

  • Words like “favorite,” “color,” “honor,” and “labor” are spelled without the “u” (the –or suffix replacing the British –our)
  • Words like “center” and “theater” are spelled –er, not the British –re
  • For past tense verbs, use the –ed ending (e.g., learned instead of learnt)
  • When using the –ize/–yze suffix (or its derivations), it is with a “z”, not an “s” (e.g., strategize, realize, collectivized, standardizing)
  • Verbs ending in –el do not double the “l”: “traveling” (not “travelling”) or “canceled” (not “cancelled”)
  • Use –e/–o/–eu (not –ae/–oe/–oeu) for words like archeology, estrogen, or medieval
  • Use “defense” and “license” (the –ense suffix replacing the British –ence)
  • Use “catalog” (the –og suffix replacing the British –ogue)
  • Use “program” (the –gram suffix replacing the British –gramme)
  • Use “check” (the –k or –ck suffix replacing the British –que)
  • Use “judgment” or “argument” (the –dg or -gu replacing the British –dge or –gue)


  • American English uses double quotes (“x”), and puts the punctuation inside the final double quote: “x.”
  • Single quotes (‘x’) are used when there is a quote within a quote: “He said, ‘Okay.’”
  • American English is quite intolerant of comma splices, so be sure to avoid this sentence structure

Units of measurement

  • Temperature is in Fahrenheit degrees
  • Measurement units are in miles, feet, yards, and inches
  • Dates are given in Month/Day/Year style (12/31/2016 is December 31, 2016) and Americans tend to use slashes or dashes between the numbers, not periods
  • Americans use a colon in expressions of time, not a period: 10:30 am (not 10.30 am)

Quirks and common expressions

  • For starters, use “fall” (not “autumn”), “faucet” (not “tap”), “diaper” (not “nappy”), “cookie” (not “biscuit”), “elevator” (not “lift”), “pants” (not “trousers”), and “candy” (not “sweets”)
  • Titles like Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Dr. all take periods after them
  • Avoid words like “shall” and “needn’t”; Americans tend to use “should” and “do not need”
  • Collective nouns are always singular
  • Americans go “to the hospital” and “on vacation”
  • A lot of slang is region specific, but check out a slang dialect glossary for some help

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