In British English some nouns end in -ice and the corresponding verbs in -ise:
licence/license (without the i)
In American English noun and verb have the same form; the s is retained in license/license, and the c in practice/practice.
Some words take the same form as verb and noun:
Disguise, exercise, franchise, invoice, merchandise, notice, promise, sacrifice, slice, surprise
Service is a noun but it also functions as a verb: I need to service my car. However, the word has taken on a sexual connotation and you should avoid using it as a verb with one or more persons as direct object. Use serve, help, aid or assist instead.
Against popular belief, the spelling -ize in the word organize was first used in England in the 1400s, centuries before the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America. Nowadays this spelling is considered American, while British English has the form with -ise.
That last statement is not completely true. The so-called Oxford spelling uses the z, which you can read about here.
The spelling with a z agrees with the original root -izo in Greek words. Other English words come from Greek words with an s in their root. Such English words therefore have an s. This applies to words spelled with a y, like analyse, catalyse, dialyse and paralyse. However, you will find many instances of the spelling -yze in American English.
Some verbs must be spelled -ise in both American and British English. Again, even if we state that -ise is the correct spelling of these words, Americans use -ize in some of them.
You should always spell the following verbs with -ise:
To have regard for means to respect, pay attention to. If you are regardless, you do something despite everything; you do it anyway, nevertheless. Regardless also means not taking into account.
We’ll go fishing, regardless of the weather. Regardless of the time of day, he would promptly come to help me. Regardless of the threat, they went on.
Another way of expressing that something is not affected by something else is to use irrespective of.
This applies to all students, irrespective of nationality. We came to the same result, irrespective of what method we used. Irrespective of whether a text is long or short, it needs copyediting.
The meaning of not being affected by something may lead Swedish writers to use the word independent (Swedish oberoende) in sentences like the ones above. However, independent means separate, unrelated, autonomous or self-sufficient. Use irrespective of instead.
The word compare is used with to or with. Both are correct, but there is a difference in meaning. We use comparewith to put two or more things beside each other and look for differences and similarities. We must use compare to when we want to suggest that two things are similar:
Some historians compare him to Churchill.
Stockholm has been compared to Venice.
If you refer to both similarities and differences, use with:
Compared with last year’s result, we see a huge difference this year.
Most writers do not know the difference between compare with and compare to, or they don’t care. In American English, to is more common. But you, as a good writer, will of course know the difference.
As a writer I might compare myself with, say, Bruce Chatwin (and realise that I am vastly inferior to him), but I would never dream of comparing myself to Bruce Chatwin (implying that I might be as good a writer as he was).
So the little boy in the image above may compare his belly with his mother’s: ”Look, mummy, your tummy is bigger than mine!” But he may just as well compare his tummy to his mother’s and say, ”Look mummy, I’ve got a tummy too!”
American English or British English? Or perhaps Oxford spelling? Does it matter which language you choose? Do your readers care?
Obviously, if you write for an American audience, you should write American English. And if you want to send a paper to a British journal, you should use UK English, which is another name for British English. Always check with the publisher or read the style guide of the journal. However, it is crucial that you are consistent and write your whole text in one and the same language.
When you write a doctoral thesis or a novel, the choice of language is yours. Only, as I said above, be consistent.
If you go for American English, use American spelling and write labor instead of labour, center instead of centre, catalog instead of catalogue, fulfill instead of fulfil, traveling instead of travelling, and so on. Use a z instead of an s in words like recognize and organization. (There are, however, some words that are always written with -ise or -yse – read more about them here.)
American English uses the serial comma, which is the comma that is placed before and or or in a series of words. An example: Horses, cows, and sheep are farm animals. British English does not use this comma.
There are also differences in vocabulary. The American apartment is a flat in Britain, Brits walk on the pavement, while Americans use the sidewalk. And when you are angry in Britain, you are mad in America – to a Brit mad means crazy. When something is quite good it is very good in America but only fairly good in Britain.
There are, of course, also differences in grammar. When a British speaker uses the perfect tense, I have already called him, an American would use the past tense, I already called him. The American a real good movie is in British a really good film.
Oxford spelling is a variant of British English. It prefers -ize in words like organize and recognize instead of the spelling -ise in British English. The spelling with -izeis actually the oldest; organize, for example, appeared in a text in England as early as around 1425. The Oxford spelling is used by publishers like Collins, Longman and Oxford University Press (but not Oxford University!) and some academic journals in Britain. The Oxford spelling uses the serial comma, which therefore is also called the Oxford comma.
If you have any questions or comments, use my Contact page.
English is the most widely used language in the world. It first spread through migration (mainly to North America, South Africa and Australia) and later, when the British Empire expanded, through the colonisation of Africa and Asia. When the English language came into contact with local languages, there grew new varieties, which now are called World Englishes.
American English differs from British English as well as from Australian English. There are even different Englishes in Britain; besides Standard English we find Scottish English, Cockney, Kentish, Scouse (Liverpool), Geordie (North East England) and others. The USA has General (or Standard) American English as well as varieties such as African American, Western, Mid-Atlantic and North Central English.
We can also speak about World English (in the singular), referring to the lingua franca, the common language used in communication all over the world between people who speak different native languages. In fact, most users of English in the world do not have English as their mother tongue but use it to communicate with other non-native (and, of course, also native) English speakers. Naturally, a speaker’s English will be affected by their native language when it comes to vocabulary, idioms, grammar, etc. So you can hear Chinglish (in China), Franglish (in France), Honglish (in Hong Kong), Singlish (in Singapore), Swinglish (in Sweden), and so on.
There are two challenges facing you as a non-native English writer. One is knowing which English to use. Usually your choice would be between British and American English. The other challenge is avoiding too great an influence from your own language. We will deal with those challenges later on in this blog.
Even if you feel that your English is good, your text can always be improved. You have worked on your manuscript for a long time and know what you want to say, but it is difficult to see mistakes in your own text. Your brain knows what you want to convey and that competes with what you see when you read your text. An objective reader will have a fresh perspective, and a professional copyeditor knows what to look for.
In an academic setting, accuracy is a must. In research, attention to detail is taken for granted. A flawed manuscript will not be published. Not surprisingly, it is easier for writers with English as their mother tongue to have their papers accepted; the acceptance rate for non-native writers is much lower.
In business, correct English is just as crucial – language errors in advertising, in manuals, in customer correspondence or on a website will be noticed and will affect the company’s reputation negatively. That is why you need a copyeditor!
No matter how long or short your text is, I will help you refine it. Whether it is a doctoral thesis, a research paper for a journal, a manual, a cover letter or your website, your English will benefit from copyediting. The whole process will be done in close collaboration between you, the writer, and me, the copyeditor.
Via the Contact page you can let me know your specific needs.
Perhaps you are a doctoral student planning your thesis. Or you are a professor writing a book or a research paper for an international journal. Maybe you have written a manual and feel that the language is not exactly what you would like it to be. Or you just want to have your CV or a cover letter checked for errors.
What I can do for you
In this blog you will get useful tips on writing in English. Through my long experience as a copyeditor I have learnt the typical errors that writers make and what linguistic problems they often meet.
I will also tell you about resources that will enhance your writing. Whether books, apps or websites, they will help you write much better.
So, if you want to read my blog, scroll down and you will see my blog entries starting with my latest text. You can also choose a topic from the list in the sidebar on the right or search for a specific word.
And when you feel that your text needs copyediting, send it to me
On my other pages here you can learn about how I work and read comments from some of my many satisfied clients. And if you decide to let me copyedit your text, you should read my advice for writers.
The CEO of a Swedish multinational firm was once asked what language the company used. The answer was, “Bad English”.
Most users of English are non-native speakers and, not surprisingly, the language used is often, as the Swedish manager put it, bad English.
What’s the problem?
Communicating in a second language often involves ambiguity and misunderstanding and can eventually lead to serious problems. An example can be found in the sentence you just read: The English word eventually means in the end, finally, sooner or later, while the Swedish word eventuellt means possibly, potentially.
Can you connect with your readers? Bad English may prevent you from being published. And if you manage to be published in spite of language deficiencies, your readers will doubt your professionality. Poor language will make them lose interest in what you are trying to say; they may even mistrust your message or simply not understand it.
The difference between good and bad English is crucial. My role as copyeditor is to make sure that bad English is transformed into good English. I do so in close collaboration with you, the writer. Together we will make you a better English writer. We are on the same page!
You are welcome to visit this site again and again. Or, better still, why not sign up for my newsletter? Then you will know when there is something new to read on this page, something that will make you a better English writer.
My posts will, I hope, be your stepping stones to better writing.
Note: When there is an asterisk (*) in front of a word or a phrase in my posts here, it means that the word or phrase is wrong or not accepted language. You can find examples here, here and here.
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