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Canceled or Cancelled?

Where you live determines which spelling you should use: canceled or cancelled.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
September 29, 2016

Every winter, you probably see the word canceled a lot—or should it be spelled cancelled?

Canceled is more common in American English, and cancelled is more common in British English, but these aren't hard-and-fast rules as you can see in the Google Ngram charts below.

Is It Canceled or Cancelled?

The AP Stylebook, used by many American news outlets, recommends canceled.

British English Ngram

Cancelled is clearly the dominant form in British English.

British cancelled

American English Ngram

Noah Webster is usually credited with creating American spellings that have fewer letters than British spellings such as color and flavor, and canceled is the recommended spelling in a Webster's 1898 dictionary, but this Ngram appears to show that canceled only overtook cancelled in American books in the early 1980s.

American canceled

In summary, if you are writing for an American audience, spell canceled with one L; and if you’re writing for a British audience, spell cancelled with two L’s. If it bothers you that there are two spellings, blame Noah Webster.

For more on why Americans and Britons spell some words differently, see also: Why Are British English and American English Different?

Open the next podcast segment in a new window to keep following along: Why homecoming is called HoCo.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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