I am confused about the spelling of the past tense of the verb "cancel". I googled a bit but everyone has a different opinion apparently. I need to know the correct standard spelling.

  • 2
    They are both standard; the version with doubled 'll' is more common in BrE and that with single 'l' is more common in AmE. See this question – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 10 '16 at 0:21
  • 1
    This reference from the BBC Suffix spelling rules: double letters lists four main rules regarding these kinds of suffixes. For this word, #2 mostly applies, but it could also fall under #4 (2nd example) depending how you place the stress. – user3169 Mar 10 '16 at 1:14

As @StoneyB points out, both are correct.

Having been taught that a single consonant at the end of a word would make
canceled be pronounced as "can-sealed" and a double consonant would make
cancelled be pronounced as "can-selled", I use cancelled even though the present tense is spelled cancel.

Google Ngrams shows (for what it's worth):

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Clearly canceled has over taken cancelled, but that may be an artifact of the influence of US media (Friends, Sex in the City, Batman, Superman, Star Wars vs Only Fools and Horses, Upstairs Downstairs, Yes Prime Minister, Eastenders, Dad's Army) on English language programming consumption.

  • Awesome! Great analysis. Thanks Peter! helpful as always :) – Maryam Mar 10 '16 at 0:49

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