Choosing your spelling – Australian, British or US

Can a writer or editor choose their spelling? Is there only one right way to spell a word or not?

Words can have variants, but dictionaries may not have all variants or agree on the most common or preferred variant. There are different versions of English, with Australian spelling, British spelling and US spelling. Australian spelling is considered somewhat in between US and British. While the meaning of words is clear, for consistency, choose one style and use it throughout the document. Inconsistent spelling can be a sign of copying and pasting from multiple sources.

Writing for an Australian audience should generally use Australian spelling. For instance, a thesis for a degree at an Australian university should be in Australian English. There may an exception if it contains chapters which have been submitted to or published in an academic journal which requires US spelling. Some international journals will accept either US or British, or edit to their preferred style after acceptance.

Here are some common differences between Australian and US spelling:

  • Australian: analyse, organise, organisation vs US: analyze, organize, organization
  • Australian: labour, colour, behaviour vs US: labor, color, behavior
  • Australian: centre, centred, metre vs US: center, centered, meter
  • Australian: modelled vs US: modeled.

The Australian Style manual for authors, editors and printers (pages 83–84) discusses some more word groups with variable spellings. Date formats can also vary in Australian and US English.

Tip: choose a spelling style and be consistent.

See my related blogs:

For advice on choosing your spelling, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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