English is my second language, but I'm practically bilingual. I consume a lot of American/British media, and I can somewhat distinguish their difference (accent is always a big giveaway, but I'm concerned about written English now).

I'm about to enter my thesis semester, and I have a vague memory of someone telling me that I should stick to either American/British written form of English (for academic writing). The question is whether or not this is true. Suppose yes, then how should I watch for it? I do notice that I always use "colour", but often use both "favour" and "favor". I am not sure what else is different, are there idioms that are exclusive to either one?

  • 1
    If your thesis is in a scientific/technical area then grammar and word choice should not be an issue. Spelling is unfortunately.
    – mdewey
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 16:33

1 Answer 1


Yes, you should be consistent in your spelling. If you are writing in British English, then "flavor" is a mistake.

This shouldn't be much of a problem. The grammar of American and British English is very similar, particularly in the written forms of the language. Far more similar than the grammar of, for example, Castilian and Galician Spanish. The spelling can be easily checked by computer (you should set your preference to either British or American spelling, and you should always spellcheck anything you write on computer).

The other difference mattar less. If you are aware of particular American and British terminology, avoid saying "The automobile was parked on the pavement, with the hood open and the windscreen broken". But this sentence would be understood and, unless your thesis is about cars would not cause problems. There is a little variation in punctuation, but now this can usually also be checked by the computer. You will tend not to use idioms in a formal texts, if you are aware of an idiom being specifically from the "wrong" dialect then you should avoid it. Generally it is only casual idioms that are highly polarised by dialect, and you should be avoiding casual idioms anyway.

For handwritten texts do your best, but native speakers are generally more permissive of minor errors in handwritten texts that do not affect meaning or understanding.

In a scientific text it is more important to use the right technical terminology rather than worry about Americanisms/Britishisms. In a fiction text they would be more distracting.

  • Is there an (hopefully exhaustive) list comparing which words are American and which English? In your example, I know automobile is British, while hood is American, but I'm not so sure about pavement (I think it's British, and the American counter-part is side-walk). I ask because I know my autocorrect is not picky enough with word choices. Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 16:31
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    It is more important that you use the right technical terminology. There are word lists of differences - but there is actually a lot of cross-over. Automobile is an example. It is more common in the USA, in British English it is a dated and technical term for the much more common "car".
    – James K
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 16:41
  • You're absolutely right, so +1, yet I'm consistently using 'colour', 'flavour' and 'analyze', 'capitalization'. Why? Because I feel that as coming from a non-English country, I can choose the best of both worlds :)
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 16:48
  • Oxford dictionary for many years recommended "capitalization" and -ize in general in words that were modern formations and not derived from French. So you are in the good company of Henry Fowler et al. (The Oxford based detective show Morse has the lead character call the "-ise" spelling "practically illiterate")
    – James K
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 16:52

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