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Adviser vs. advisor

Adviser and advisor are both accepted spellings of the noun meaning one who advises or counsels. There is no difference between them. But adviser, the older version, is listed as the primary spelling in most dictionaries, and it is about five times as common as advisor in current news publications from throughout the English-speaking world.

In the U.S. and Canada, advisor is commonly used in official job titles, but adviser is still generally preferred over advisor in North America, and advisor is only marginally more common in American and Canadian English than in other varieties of English.

Examples


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Most major publications, whether in the U.S., the U.K., or elsewhere in the English-speaking world, prefer adviser—for example:

A former campaign adviser to President Obama called on top administration officials to fire Energy Secretary Steven Chu. [USA Today]

Schools must do more to engage children who are passively “opting out” of lessons, the government’s adviser on behaviour has warned. [Guardian]

A senior nuclear adviser to the British government says Australia should consider enriching uranium. [Australian]

And advisor is sometimes part of an official title and sometimes just an alternative spelling of adviser—for example:

It is part of what provincial Early Learning Advisor Charles Pascal calls the “seamless day of learning.” [Toronto Star]

[H]e is not necessarily interested in a return to management and may prefer to work more permanently as an advisor. [Telegraph]

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Comments

  1. As a recent federal bureaucrat, in my experience “adviser” is used to describe the role an individual plays as an advice giver, based upon his or her expertise in another capacity -for example, the Council of Economic Advisers.” On the other hand, an “advisor” is a person functioning principally or exclusively in the capacity of providing expert advice,  and who has been named as an advisor as part of his or her job title, as in “Special Advisor to the President for Green Jobs.”

    In these examples, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers would normally function under a different job title altogether but may take a leave of absence or work in both capacities at the same time. An Advisor would normally be dedicated to the role of advice-giving and be answerable directly to the President.

    • cobwebhead says:

      So, if you are an expert adviser, you drop the “e” and replace it with an “o?” Is that right? It depends on the frequency and/or the quality of the advice?

      • J. C. Smith says:

        To me, it’s whether or not the person is paid to do it or not.
        If I tell my son to wear his coat, I’m an adviser.
        If I’m paid to give advice on a particular subject, I’m an advisor.
        I accept that this difference may exist only in my head, but that’s my system.

        • Nonsumdignus says:

          That is my “system” as well.

          • Carla René says:

            As is mine. My difference, however, is that apart from the odd magazine/periodical article, I’ve never once heard someone offering advice in a non-professional capacity referred to as an “adviser”. Which is what led to my thinking that perhaps the -or spelling was one reserved merely for Universities and other dark places in Academia.

            I’m rather surprised that this article quotes statistics as the US and CA being heavily biased toward -er, when that’s not been my experience. I’ve always associated -or with the title of a person in a position to professionally offer advice, and for a long time, thought it was just the spelling for a University advisor who guides students into career paths and hence courses to take, or one who represents student clubs and organisations. For instance, all throughout undergrad and graduate school, we’re given advisors–this spelling being used BY the institution. (Even now, my spell-check in Firefox is going nuts, as is the one in Gmail, which is what precipitated my hunting down the proper spelling of this word once and for all.)

            So if they’re both accepted words, and I’m assuming this has been the case for more than just the length of a software update, then not everyone is aware of that fact.

        • Trickster Wolf says:

          I’d always thought it was perfunctory versus actual advice. If you’re doing it as a role but not actually providing advice (which is commonly the case with jobs where you check things off), you’re an advisor. E.g. I am an advisor for two student groups on campus, but I don’t offer them any advice at all. I just approve their decisions. If I were an academic adviser, however, I’d use the ‘e’ for it, because they do give advice.

  2. re “five times as common as advisor”

    Something cannot be five times as common as something else, but can be five times more common than something else

    • Grammarist says:

      This isn’t useful at all if you don’t back it up with any sort of explanation.

      • Nit when you’re playing with nerds! :)

      • Michael G. says:

        Let’s turn it around. “One fifth as common” versus “one fifth less common”. Both are actually sound statements, but they mean very different things. “One fifth as common” means 20% of the original… “one fifth less common” means 100%-20% which is the same as 80% of the original. Now applying the same logic to the “five times” case, “five times as common” is the correct usage as intended, as it implies 500% of the original. “Five times more common”, by analogy, would be 100%+500%, or 600% of the original. This is because “more” implies addition (like “less” implies subtraction).

        In other words, your usage is correct, and I believe gram is mistaken.

      • Szanyi Student says:

        When using a comparator (“more” or “less”), you use “than” to maintain the “more than” or “less than”. In this case you need to use “more common than”. You only use “as” when they are equal “This is as That is” or “This is as common as That.”

    • Maria Tyler says:

      In math we would interpret “Five times as” to mean 5x, but we would interpret “Five times more” to mean 5x + x = 6x.
      -Math Professor

    • Retsopmi Enilno says:

      May be if we read it as “five times as-common-as”, we could interpret it as 5X, right?

    • campbell says:

      I know this thread is 3 years old, but I’ve only just come across it, and just can’t resist giving a big “LOL” at the person who thinks “five times as common” is not possible.

  3. English is so ridiculous. :(

  4. This one throws me all the time! I’ve always used “advisor,” but it occasionally (like in this text box!) turns up red!

  5. I use advisor, as I use the word advisory.

  6. trawnatroller says:

    I know it’s all just personal preference, but “adviser” makes me cringe. Imagine if you were to write ‘Docter’ or ‘Professer’…gross right??? The ‘or’ suffix seems, for perhaps arbitrary reasons, far more suitable to professional titles (i.e., doctors, professors, administrators, ADVISORS)…with the exception of certain titles which would just sound clumsy and a bit gross with an ‘or’ suffix (e.g., lawyor…ew).

    • eric espina says:

      How about TEACHOR, Enginoor/Engineor??

      how about other nouns aside from titles??

      CLEANOR, GIVOR, TAKOR, PLEASOR, DIGGOR, BELIEVOR, HELPOR, TIME KEEPOR, MEAT EATOR, BUS DRIVOR……hope this helps.

      • …MANEATOR?

      • Kid Charlemagne says:

        Brilliant reply. Thank you for showing troll the light

      • reardensteel says:

        Okay, you’re right that all the words you listed look ridiculous… but the guy did say it was personal preference.
        Does he really deserve to be shouted down for that?

      • Kevin Matlock says:

        Eh, this does’t seem to be trolling to me. In a way, the examples of Trawna and Eric are in agreement. Both back up the point of the article, namely that the suffix “or” is more often association with professional titles (e.g., doctor, professor, etc.), while “er” denotes everyday activities (e.g., helper, cleaner, etc.). And both versions of adviser/advisor are acceptable, so we’re all right.

      • disqus_nEHfJY5JEN says:

        You will also notice that the examples trawnatroller gives are words directly coming from Latin, whereas the ones you provide are of Germanic origin, or come indirectly from Latin like “pleaser”. “advisor” does come from Latin, and as such I agree with her/him that it sounds better with an “o”…

  7. Bennettovnikolai says:

    Not that it really matters, but I differ from most here in that I actually prefer “adviser” to “advisor” for two simple reasons:

    1) The verb from which “adviser” stems is “to advise”. It doesn’t make sense to me to convert verbs that end in e like “advise” into “advisor”(you wouldn’t convert drive into drivor, rule into rulor, or make into makor), except of course for verbs that end in “te” as in translate/translator, or administrate/administrator.)

    2) “Advisor” doesn’t make as much phonetic sense to me. When the letter e follows the letter s, the s is generally rendered as a “z” sound, as in advise, surprise, or laser. But when the letter o follows s, its sounds remains “s”, as in “so”. (Except of course for the blaring exception of the word “visor”, which does nothing to help my case unfortunately.) In short, it’s pronounced “ad-VI-zer” not “ad-VICE-or”.

    As to professional titles, am I just lay-interpreter if I interpret languages for the fun of it, or am I an interpretor if I start doing it for the UN?

    • @d7648df3d786f45edcbfd0abf2d7b605:disqus it does make phonetic sense. Don’t just look at the “o”. The “i” is what contributes to the pronunciation of “s”. Think of words like “Windsor” or “incisor”. Most “-or” words are preceded by voiceless consonants. When it’s voiced or syllabic, on the other hand, it will be the “z” sound.

    • Kid Charlemagne says:

      Best response bar none. Thank you

    • Pillion Mac says:

      In my view, anyone who gives advice is an “adviser”, whereas one who is employed to advise is an “advisor”.
      Having said that, I also argue there should be a second adjective, “advisory” to be used pertaining to general advice delivered and the term “advisory” used in relation to official advice delivered by an advisor, for example. acting in an advisory position.

  8. disqus_PYt91Sld9t says:

    As a journalism student, my editors have advised me that “advisor” is nothing but a misspelled word. The spellchecker seems to agree as I type this comment.

  9. Google reports 151 million hits for “advisor” but only 19 million hits for “adviser.”

    • thinkitthrough says:

      This discussion is officially over.

    • Funny that “Advisor” is American English and “Adviser” is English and that America happens to have about 5 times as many people.

      Google doesn’t report unpaid tax so clearly their reporting isn’t always honest and dignified.

      Yes I’m joking about Google but the fact you’re using a search engine as the decider of the English language is laughable.

      Yes I know your post is a year old but maybe you shouldn’t come up with ridiculous statements if you don’t want to find a response at any point beyond the date the post was made.

      Discussion officially over.

      • The method is not at all laughable. Dave is merely pointing out that, in contrast to the article, it would appear that the “or” spelling is more common than the “er” spelling.

        The article itself, incidentally, quotes an English newspaper, the Telegraph, using the spelling of “advisor”.

  10. Paul Averly says:

    I was looking for the answer to this very spelling query and I thank you all for the discussion. Curiously, no-one has mentioned a proclivity for “advisOR” due to the accepted spelling of “supervisOR” (also a position/role/title).

    • Archie Valparaiso says:

      “Supervisor”, “divisor” and “incisor” end in “-or” because their noun form ends in “-ion”. (Because, um, Latin.) “Advertiser” and “adviser”, however, don’t have associated “-ion” nouns, so we just stick an “r” on the end of the verb, as we do with most verbs that end in a consonant+”e”, e.g., “produce(r)”, “ride(r)”, “invade(r)”, and so on.

      So “adviser” it clearly must be. Until, that is, someone brings up “advisory”, at which point the whole rather elegant hypothesis crumbles to dust.

  11. nako.2100 says:

    nako.2100

  12. Anonymous010 says:

    Wait a tick…’adviser’ is the more common spelling in the US? Since when? I had NEVER seen it spelled with an ‘e’ before a few months ago. Now it’s all over the place. It’s as if the ‘e’ spelling just sprouted up overnight out of nowhere. I call shenanigans.

    • Chris Warrick says:

      The power of the Grammarist proven. (Is it only my browser that red underlines that particular site title word as I type :(?! )

      The expert advisers (and their American Advisor cousins) have spoken and the heaving masses have taken their advisory advices. Well done, Grammarists.

      Advisors of the world untie – you have nothing to lose but your Os!

      As a Canadian/British/Australian (and erstwhile American Green Carder – or is that Cardor?) business market-entry adviser do I now need to have my cards reprinted?

  13. Do you own an advisory practice or advisery practice? Exactly. It’s advisor, not adviser, unless you’re referencing the law.

  14. I don’t like adviser, it just looks wrong, and I don’t care about it being the elder version. Advisor is consistent with contributor, coordinator, administrator, etc.

  15. Lee Johnson says:

    Where do you live? If you live in Great Britain, there’s a high degree of chance that you will always use “adviser”, being that this is the grammatical spelling exclusively taught in that group of countries. If you live in the north American sphere (including Canada, etc.), it seems to me that “advisor” would be more likely as a default – it’s not the only example of an historical US replacement culture which changes the letter “o” for the ‘old world’ “e”. P.S. My valid use of the phrase “more likely” just there gives you a massive clue in solving the ‘non-conundrum’ “as common” versus “more common”. I’ll leave you to work that one out. As a Wikipedia editor, by the way, I would NEVER interfere with the either/or spelling of the word adviser/advisor. It is valid in whichever form it appears.

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