As an American English editor who also provides services as a British English editor, I’m sharing some of the differences between the two and why it’s important to train in both disciplines.
Yes, there are two “types” of English — British and American — and for this reason I’ve joined the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) based in the UK. CIEP offers workshops and online training courses that enhance the skills of editors and proofreaders, and helps immensely when working with Canadian, Australian, and European authors as a British English editor.
British English Vs. American English Examples
Spelling can be tricky when writing and editing in British English, as you’ll see below.
The meaning of words can differ from American English as well. For example, “boot” in American English means a type of footwear… but in the UK means the trunk of a car. “Braces” in America means a teeth-straightening device, but in the UK means suspenders (that hold up pants). A “dummy” in America means someone without a lot of brainpower or common sense, whereas in the UK it refers to a baby’s pacifier.
You get the gist of it — spelling and meaning are something to carefully surveil in manuscripts when language differences are in play!
British English Style Guides
Just as we have style guides in America, there are important style guides for use in British English writing and editing projects.
- The European Union style guide
- The Economist style guide
- The Guardian style guide
- The Telegraph style guide
Just for Fun
I admit to being a fan of British television, mostly because I love listening to the various accents — the traditional East End Cockney dialect, upper crust British, Multicultural London English (MLE), and regional accents like Georgie and Welsh. Watching characters speak on TV series such as Endeavour, DCI Banks, and EastEnders has helped me better envision characterization in fiction novels and proper communication in business writing.
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