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American vs British. Academic writing differences

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John Milovich
John Milovich
ScamFighter Expert
Former college customer turned freelance writer, shares insider insights on the essay industry.

Suppose you have to choose between UK or US university, let us see the details of their academic languages. American English and British English have lots of dissimilarities in accent, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar. As our blog is dedicated to academic writing help, we will leave the first item for you to research by yourself and focus on the writing differences.

British vs American English Spelling Differences

Your professor will understand you regardless what variant of English you use, but it can be considered as a mistake if even a single letter does not match. Find below examples of the most common spelling peculiarities in AE or BE. The differences are easily observed and repeated in words with an a similar structure:

acknowledgment acknowledgement
aging ageing
aluminum aluminium
artifact artefact
behavior behaviour
caliber calibre
capitalize capitalise
cooperation co-operation
defense defence
endeavor endeavour
enroll enrol
estrogen oestrogen
fulfill fulfil
gray grey
honor honour
inquire enquire
judgment judgement
maneuver manoeuvre
mold mould
paralyze paralyse
plow plough
program programme (but program if computer-related)
skeptical sceptical
sulfur sulphur
tire tyre

An explanation of spelling peculiarities can be found in this video: watch video

British vs American English Vocabulary Differences

Different words are used to express different meaning in some cases in the USA and UK. Here are a few illustrations:

apartment flat
band-aid plaster
cookie biscuit
chips crisps
drugstore chemist’s
(french) fries chips
mailbox postbox
sneakers / tennis shoes trainers
soccer soccer
soda / pop / coke / soft drink soft drink / fizzy drink
sweater jumper
the movies the cinema
vacation holiday

Watch the video for more examples

British vs American English Grammar Differences

Dissimilarities of grammar are often neglected by foreign students. Learn our list and do not be one of them:

  • Double quotation marks (“word”) are used in American English instead of single (‘word’) in British English
  • In BE, a collective noun (like the staff, team, government, etc.) tends to be plural highlighting the members of the group. On the contrary, such nouns in the US are always singular, considering the group as a whole entity.
  • Punctuation appears within quotation marks (e.g. “The moral is,” he said) in American English, while they are written outside the quotation marks (e.g. ‘The moral is’, he said) in British English.
  • Most title abbreviations are followed by a period (e.g. Dr., Mrs., Hon., Ave.) in AE. A title abbreviation takes a period only if it does not end with the last letter of the full word (e.g. Dr, Mrs but Hon., Ave.) in BE.
  • Many irregular verbs in British English (leapt, burnt, dreamt, learnt) were made regular in American English (leaped, burned, dreamed, learned).

If you ask how to remember all the differences between British and American English, we will give you 3 pieces of advice: learn, practice, and set your text editor to the UK or US English.Watch the video to supplement your understanding of grammar differences: watch video

Should you write not in your style?

Your university probably has a preference which variant to use, so check your school’s website for guidance. If there are no specific rules, pick the most natural one to you. But do not mix two styles. The usage of the wrong variant of English can impact the quality of your work and your score greatly. Ideally, your paper should be checked by an experienced proofreader to eliminate this kind of mistakes.

Academic Grading Systems Peculiarities

Terms and differences in the education grading systems of the USA and UK can puzzle you. The description of the common systems is presented below. But remember that your school can have slight differences, so consult the website of your college to make sure.

What You Should Know about the Grading System in the USA

Students in the USA get letter grades: A, B, C, D, F where A means “excellent” and F “failed“. Each letter represents a certain grade percentage. It reflects how well you meet requirements of the assignment, cover the given topic or how many questions of a test you answer correctly. Besides, each grade has a quality point - a number from 4.0 to 0.0. Finally, a student’s overall academic career is shown by a Grade Point Average (GPA). This extremely important number is used for graduating, applying for scholarships, joining clubs, applying to other schools. The GPA is determined according to a formula: a sum of the quality point from each grade divided by the number of course credits a student attempted. All the relations are described by the table:

Letter Grade Percentage GPA
A 90%-100% 4.0
B 80%-89% 3.0
C 70%-79% 2.0
D 60%-69% 1.0
F 0%-59% 0.0

What You Should Know about the Grading System in the UK

A 100 point grading scale is accepted in the United Kingdom where 100 is the best. Then the average value is calculated that is based on the grades you gained in exams and other assessments during the last academic years (the first is not counted). If you apply for a Bachelor's degree, you can get a regular degree - “BA” or a degree with honours - “BA (Hons)”. Relations are described by a table:

Class Grade
First class honours (1) 70-100%
Upper second class honours (2:1) 60-69%
Lower second class honours (2:2) 50-59%
Third class honours (3) 40-49%
Ordinary degree 30-39%
Failed 0-29%

We hope our article was useful for you to understand the academic writing differences between American English vs British English. If our expectations are true, share this article with your friends.