cancelled / canceled
marvellous / marvelous
traveller / traveler
Single 'l' or double 'l'?
Which are the British spellings and which are the American ones?

The British spellings are with the double 'l' and the American ones with single 'l'.

We don't usually double up the 'l' in American English but sometimes we do if the stress falls on a syllable other than the first, which we'll see later.

As I've said before, it's always great to know the difference between British and American spellings because it stops you getting confused, because of spellcheck internet, books, etc.

So let's look at why and when do we double up the final 'l'
Usually in British English we double up the final 'l' when a word is more than one syllable and we add a vowel suffix - ing, -ation, -ed, -ous, -er ) But like all rules there are exceptions which we'll look at later, and as I said we sometimes
double up in American English too so watch out for those later.

cancel has two syllables and when we add a vowel suffix endings we double up the 'l'
British: cancel - cancelling, cancelled, cancellation
American: cancel - canceling, canceled, cancelation

British: marvel - marvellous, marvelled, marvelling
American: marvel - marvelous, marveled, marveling

British: travel - travelling, travelled, traveller
American: travel – traveling, traveled, traveler

Brit: model - modelled, modelling, modeller
Am: model - modeled, modeling, modeler

Brit: fuel, fuelled, fuelling
Am: fuel fueled, fueling

Brit: initial - initialled, initialling
Am: initial - initialed, initialing

American usage agrees with British on words that have the stress on the second syllable
control ("con TROL") - controlled, controlling
patrol - patrolled, patrolling
expel - expelled, expelling
extol – extolled extolling
annul - annulled, annulling

Both American and British agree not to double the end ‘l’ in parallel - paralleling, paralleled

We don't double the 'l' in these words:
appeal - appealing, appealed
devil - devilish
loyal - loyalist
travel - travelogue

We have some root words that are spelt differently in British and American

Look at British - enrol and it has a double 'l' in American enroll so we have
British English: enrol - enrolling, enrolled (enrolment remember only double up with vowel suffixes)
but in American English enroll is spelled with double 'l' so just add the suffix ending: enrolling, enrolled and it means we have a double 'l' when adding the -ment suffix - enrollment but British is enrolment.

This is the same with
fulfil Brit: fulfilled, fulfilling, fulfiller but fulfilment
fulfill Am: fulfilled, fulfilling, fulfiller and fulfillment

Remember to look in a dictionary or online dictionary if you're not sure. I use the following online dictionaries all the time for the spelling, definitions, sentence examples, pronunciation and American spellings
For just American spellings Merriam-Webster
So don't give yourself a hard time for doing this - we have so many words and unusual spellings in English that there's nothing wrong with checking a spelling in a dictionary.

If you want to learn more spelling rules then I have the perfect book for you - the Spelling Rules Workbook - a step-by-step guide to the rules English of spelling - Click here for more info.


country flags