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Acknowledgement vs. acknowledgment

Both acknowledgment and acknowledgement appear throughout the English-speaking world, but acknowledgment, without the middle e, is preferred in U.S. and Canadian English, while acknowledgement is preferred outside North America. These preferences extend to the plural forms, acknowledgements and acknowledgments.

In the U.S. and Canada, acknowledgement appears about once for every two instances of acknowledgment. The ratio is the other way around in British and Australian publications, at least the ones that make their content searchable online. So wherever you are writing, both forms are common enough to be considered acceptable, but it may be safer to stick with the one that your readers are more likely to consider correct.

History

Acknowledgment is now considered the American spelling, but it was preferred in all varieties of English until recently. It’s not necessarily older, as instances of both spellings are easily found in texts going back to the 16th century when the word entered the language. But as shown in this ngram, which graphs the use of both forms in British books, magazines, and journals published from 1800 to 2000, British writers once favored acknowledgment by a wide margin, and that form gave way to the longer spelling toward the end of the 20th century:


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Examples

Though both forms can be found everywhere, acknowledgment is preferred in American and Canadian publications such as these:

The acknowledgment of a possible al Qaeda role came at a congressional hearing in which government officials were peppered with questions. [Wall Street Journal]

I yearned for his attention and acknowledgment. [Globe and Mail]

It may seem odd for the author of a book on human genetics and heredity to thank his travel agent in the acknowledgments. [New York Times]

Outside North America, acknowledgement is preferred—for example:

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Comments

  1. Thanks for finally clear my confusion.

  2. first paragraph… “acknowledgements and acknowledgements.” spot the difference Oh right there isn’t one.

  3. In my American dictionary, acknowledgement is the first choice, meaning it is preferred. The verb is acknowledge. You’re adding the ending “ment” to it. There’s no reason to drop the “e”, and I think the Wall Street Journal misspelled it.

    However, the word judgment has no “e” in the middle, although people misspell it all the time.

    English is a confusing language with many inconsistencies!

    • Grammarist says:

      When we say something is “preferred,” read this as “much more common in real-world usage.” What dictionaries say does not enter into it. Dictionaries are historical documents. They record how words and phrases have been used in the past, and they are often behind the times–often many decades behind the times, with certain words. Dictionaries are useful, but they are not reliable for researching current usage trends.

      “Judgement” and “judgment” have their own set of issues. See here: http://grammarist.com/spelling/judgment-judgement/

    • In addition, MJ, the distinction you try to make between acknowledgment
      and judgment does not exist. Each word’s verb form end in “-dge”:
      acknowledge and judge. You are correct, however, that English is
      confusing and riddled with inconsistencies. On that point, everyone is
      clear.

    • Blues of Morderer says:

      this article is correct. without the ‘e’ is more north american. everybody knows this!

  4. I’m in the US (as opposed to “an American” since that’s the entire hemisphere), and I always use “judgement” which is entirely correct (check an unabridged). I do so because it’s a rendering from a judge, and phoenetic pronounciation looks awkward without the “e.” Same applies (IMHO) to acknowledgement.

    • Well, technically Greenland and parts of Spain and Africa are in the Western hemisphere. Also, most Spanish speakers from the Americas refer to U.S. Americans as americanos, as do speakers of other languages. So why the resistance, I’m curious? I suppose there are two meanings to the word, one for coming from the American continent and the other for the nation, but usually the meaning is clear.

      • Thanks for the geography heads-up. I had never thought of the Western Hemisphere extending so far east.

        The meaning of “Americans’ is accepted by context and default — and arrogance. Those from countries south of the border have told me they consider the US as a country with no name, inasmuch as they too are “Americans.” When you enter the country at the Rio Grande, you’re asked by a federal agent what nationality you are, and if you answer “American” they respond, “North American, Central American or South American?” … and proceed to narrow it down from there.

        We certainly have no unique name. Consider Mexico whose official name is United States of Mexico. At best those of us in the country between Mexico and Canada might be called the United States North of Mexico.

        • Well, technically the official demonym for a citizen of the USA is ‘American.’ Most people outside the US refer to someone in the United States as an American likewise, whilst citizens from the rest of the Americas are referred to by the country they live in. (ie Mexican, Argentinian, Colombian) A Brazilian calling themselves American, although politically correct, would sound strange to most people.

          However, I agree that more people should understand the difference between ‘America’ and ‘the United States.’ I think calling the country America (as opposed to the USA), is incorrect.

        • Amanda Hugankiss says:

          The US is the only country in the world with the word America in the name, hence the abbreviation to America. It’s the exact same as Mexico being called Mexico as you pointed out. Is Mexico arrogant for being called Mexico? Ridiculousness.

  5. NotRogerAiles says:

    “In my American dictionary, acknowledgement is the first choice, meaning it is preferred. ”

    This is a misunderstanding of how most dictionaries work. Look in the front of your dictionary, under the note for order of senses. You’ll find in most cases that the first meaning is the oldest one, not the “preferred” one. (So culprit in most dictionaries is listed first as meaning accused, not as the later (and only current) meaning, the one who did the crime.

    Perhaps someday people who pronounce on grammar topics will read the first pages of their dictionaries.

    • Thaddeus VonPumpernickel says:

      I don’t disagree with your sentiment, but the last time I looked at a print dictionary (more than a few years before your post was made), it said that was the case for the meanings, but I don’t believe it addressed spellings. In this case, the alternate spellings might be listed alphabetically

      acknowledge
      acknowledgm

  6. tompiperson says:

    In looking at the history, it is noteworthy that in the King James Bible, dating to 1611, “acknowledgement” is spelled with the “e” in the only place it appears, whereas “judgment” (which appears much more often, as one would suppose) is consistently without the “e.”

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