Quick Tip: Key Differences in Writing in British or American English


When writing a scientific manuscript you may be called to write it in American or British English. Some journals request that you write in one 'language' over the other. However, you might think to yourself that English is English! What's the difference? Unfortunately, there are some significant differences that you will need to keep in mind. Here are a few key tips to get you manuscript in the proper format:


1) Quotes

American English - Use double quotes as the primary quotes

British English - Use single quotes as the primary quotes


2) Punctuation in relation to quotes

American English - Place comma or period inside closing quotes

British English - Place comma or period outside closing quotes


3) Dates

American English - Usually represented as MM/DD/YY

British English - Usually represented as DD/MM/YY


4) Punctuation after salutations

American English - A colon follows the salutation in a formal letter, and a comma follows the salutation in an informal letter

British English - A comma follows the salutation in all letters


5) Use of e.g. and i.e.

American English - A comma follows 'e.g.' and 'i.e.'

British English - No comma after 'e.g.' and 'i.e.'


6) Use of "which" and "that"

American English - Use "which" when separating non-essential information from the main clause and use a comma before "which". Use "that" to separate essential information from the main clause.

British English - Use "which" to separate both non-essential and essential information from the main clause. Only use a comma before "which" when the information is non-essential.


7) Words that end in "re" or "er"

- Some words spelled with an "re" at the end in British English are spelled with an "er" in American English.

American English - center, liter

British English - centre, litre


8) Words that end in "our" or "or"

- Some words spelled with an "our" at the end in British English are spelled with an "or" at the end in American English

American English - favor, color

British English - favour, colour


9) Words that contain "ph" or "f"

American English - sulfur

British English - sulphur


10) Words that have "ize" or "ise"

American English - realize, organize

British English - realise, organise



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