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Canceled or Cancelled?

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

By
Mignon Fogarty
canceled or cancelled

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.

canceled or cancelled

American English Ngram

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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.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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