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Adapting Your UK Content to Suit a US Audience – The Lesser Known Differences

Laura Ginn

As writers, we all know that UK and US English are different in a lot of ways – mostly in terms of spelling and the names of certain things. Many people think that they can turn their UK content into US content simply by changing it to accommodate the widely known differences, such as changing the ‘s’ in words like ‘utilise’, ‘realise’ and ‘optimise’ to a ‘z’, and taking the ‘u’ out of words like ‘colour’, ‘favour’, ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘behaviour’. In actual fact, these well known differences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adapting your writing style for a US audience.

Writing to suit your audience is crucial if you want people to view your content as being of a high quality, and so if you want a global reach or are targeting US customers specifically, being able to write naturally in an American English style is essential.

Here are some of the less well known differences between UK and US English – if you are an American writer or content manager, you can of course reverse these to help you write better for UK, Canadian and Australian readers.

Double ‘l’ becomes single ‘l’ in some verb forms

In American spelling, verbs ending in ‘l’ are spelled differently in forms where in UK English, they become doubled up. As an example, take the word ‘travelling’. That is the UK spelling. In US English, it is spelled ‘traveling’. The same applies to ‘travelled’, which becomes ‘traveled’. You also write ‘canceling’ and ‘canceled’ in US English. Confusingly, you don’t apply this rule to nouns related to these verbs, so a ‘cancellation’ is still a ‘cancellation’. This also doesn’t apply to verbs that end in ‘ll’, so ‘selling’ is still ‘selling’.

No ‘ae’ or ‘oe’ in Latin derived words

In UK English, especially in medical words, we sometimes have ‘ae’ or ‘oe’ together. You can see this in words like ‘paediatrics’, ‘foetus’, ‘anaemia’ and ‘coeliac’. In American spelling, they do away with these and simply use an ‘e’ for both forms. This means that when you are writing for a US audience, the examples given would become ‘pediatrics’, ‘fetus’, ‘anemia’ and ‘celiac’. If you do any kind of health writing this can be helpful to know as these types of words come up a lot more often than you might think!

Nor all past tenses ending in ‘t’ are used

In UK English, we have some past tenses that end in ‘t’, such as ‘dreamt’ and ‘spelt’ which are not used in American English. Instead, the ‘t’ is replaced with the more common suffix for past tense English words, so ‘dreamt’ becomes ‘ dreamed’ and ‘spelt’ becomes ‘spelled’. Actually, in UK English both the ‘t’ and ‘ed’ versions are acceptable, but in American English the ‘t’ versions look strange and archaic to readers.

As you can see, there is more to writing for a US audience as a UK writer and vice versa than many people tend to think. At Ink Elves, we have both native UK and American writers, so we can always ensure the content we deliver is written in a style that looks natural to its intended audience. Contact us today for any copywriting needs you and your business may have, whatever the version of the English language you want!