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Canceled vs. cancelled

In American English, the verb cancel is usually inflected canceled and canceling—with one l. This is not a rule, however, and exceptions are easily found. In varieties of English from outside the U.S., including Canadian, British, and Australian English, cancelled and cancelling are the preferred spellings.

The spelling distinction extends to cancelers and cancellers, as well as to cancelable and cancellable, but it does not not extend to cancellation, which everywhere is spelled with two l’s. 

As the Ngram below shows, American English has only recently adopted the one-l spellings of canceledcanceling, etc., and the change is not fully engrained in the American language. In web searches of American publications covering the last couple of years, cancelled and cancelling still appear about once for every five instances of canceled and canceling. Outside the U.S., meanwhile, the one-spellings appear only very rarely. This is true even in Canada, which is usually friendlier to American spelling idiosyncrasies than is the rest of the English-speaking world.

This Ngram graphs the use of canceled and cancelled (as a percentage of all words used) in American books, journals, and magazines published from 1800 to 2000:


Similar Ngrams for British books show the one-forms beginning to gain ground in British English—likely due to the strong American influence on web-only publications from around the world—but the two-forms still prevail by a large margin.


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Examples

Here are a few examples from American news sources:

Exeter High School principal Vic Sokul has canceled dances for the rest of the school year. [New Hampshire Exeter]

Canceling the contract would be cheaper but not cheap. [Chicago Tribune]

Many flights have been canceled, forcing more passengers to connect at big and increasingly crowded hubs. [New York Times]

Under current law, it is scheduled to rise to 6.8% on July 1, an increase that Obama has called for canceling. [Los Angeles Times]

Moriarty added that an earlier cancellation could have allowed the slot to be resold, which would have resulted in a credit being issued. [Boston Globe]

Cancelled and cancelling, as used in the following examples, are preferred everywhere else::

Allegations of black market touting by foreign Olympic committees could see thousands of tickets cancelled. [Independent]

Student groups say organizers of the Canadian Grand Prix overreacted in cancelling the free opening day of the event. [CBC]

A New Zealand freediving champion plunged to 125m on a single breath only to have what would have been a world record cancelled. [New Zealand Herald]

It emerged yesterday that the girl, named only as Merthe, had gone into hiding with her family after cancelling the party. [Irish Times]

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Comments

  1. socialscience says:

    No comments? Well, I for one think this website is brilliant. Great integration with the Ngram too. Glad someone took the time to make this place.

    • Thank you! Our posts tend to gradually accumulate comments over months and years, and this one is still sort of new. Also, it’s not controversial at all. If you want to see lots of comments, see “Gray vs. grey” and “Spelled vs. spelt” (both always in the “Most popular today” box up there in the sidebar to the right). They get kind of ugly, though. We gave up trying to police them long ago.

      • The word “canceled” is on the rise in the U.S. because “cancelled” does not pass the Microsoft Word spell check.

        • Actually, if you take a look at the Ngram above, you’ll see the change from “cancelled’ to “canceled” in American English took place through the middle 20th century and was solidified by around 1980 (in published books, at least).

          • To my eyes, the Ngram shows mixed usage from about 1940 until about 1980 at which point there is a very well defined split in favor of canceled.

            I have always maintained that Microsoft and their spellcheckers have caused this.

            How cool of an experiment would it be if Microsoft changed back to the double ell spelling? I would love to see what that Ngram looks like in 2060.

            Great site, thanks.

          • Microsoft spell checked may have reinforced it, but the spell check is based on dictionaries. US dictionaries list “canceled” as primary spelling.

          • PopeDarren says:

            I think Michael meant that the nail in the coffin is spell check. I agree with him. If you do a bit of math in your head and then do the same thing on a calculator but get a different answer, you are likely to assume that your answer is wrong and the calculator’s answer is correct. This assumption and default reaction – relying on the computer to correct you when you’re wrong – isn’t only true for math problems. We rely on the computer’s supposed omniscience wherever we find them in our lives, which is only everywhere. Only people like the author and readers of this article actually care enough to see the squiggly red underline and think, “I’m curious why what I’ve seen or prefer is considered incorrect,” instead of, “Oh, that’s right.” And we are too few and too far between when compared to the masses being able prove to you that the two L version is incorrect by typing it in anything and it auto-corrects or is underlined. I’ll show you on my computer… Or my phone… or my watch! That means that it’s wrong… right guys? Right? :-P

          • Actually if you look at the Ngram, it wasn’t until the late 1980s (e.g., 88, 89) where “cancelled” started to fall out of favor and around ’94 when it hit its historical low (in U.S.).

            If you look in Wikipedia for history of spell check, you’ll find a passage “When memory and processing power became abundant, spell checking was
            performed in the background in an interactive way, such as has been the
            case with the Sector Software produced Spellbound program released in
            1987 and Microsoft Word since Word 95.”

            This is interesting because Spellbound (spell checker) was introduced for the Sinclair QL in ’87, the same time when “canceled” really started to take off. Mind you Spellbound was for the whole platform, not just the word processor, it spell checked in every app as you typed. This could be a coincidence (not sure how many Sinclairs were purchased), or it could be significant – writers, editors, and publishers may have purchased them, which helped reinforce the word usage in the vernacular.

        • I was using MS Word to spell check because my phone offered both as an autocomplete choice. MS Word passed both spellings. This was on a computer using Word 2003, so I’m not sure what Word 2010 would do, but I may check.

          This is my first time on this site, and I’m glad I found it.

        • This is exactly why I recently forced myself to stop using cancelled, which is how I remember spelling it growing up. Even now my browser is giving me a red underline, and I feel compelled to make it go away. By the way? Compelled? Two Ls. Maybe I’ll cancel my usage of canceled.

          • Janelle says:

            Two L’s in compelled because the accent is on the second syllable. That’s why there’s only one L in canceled. Different accent, different spelling.

          • I’ve never heard of that rule (the rule of emphasis on the first Vs. the second syllable) I had always spelled the word with double L simply because it ended in a consonant. I know that isn’t a good rule to follow but it typically fulfills my need. I too spelled the word ‘Cancelled’ until MS Word corrected me.

          • That is the correct. The double consonant carries the accent to that syllable. Examples: Traveled vs. travelled (traVELLed) or JanELLE vs. JANele.

          • wesawithappen says:

            What’s JANele. Do people actually spell Janelle with one L? I’ve also never heard of this accent/emphasis rule, and I’m not sure why people would invent (or choose to begin enforcing) such a rule to change the spelling of a word around the 1950’s. BTW, I’m from Canada and spell both “travelled” and “cancelled” with two L’s.

          • Wilson Muir says:

            whatt ?

          • That doesn’t make sense. ‘elld, elld’ is the ending of both words. Comp-> ELL-DUH, CAN-CELL-DUH.

            The word deserves two L’s, but I’m not entirely concerned on this one because Americans have been bastardizing english for a long time.

          • Mr. Tunis says:

            hilarious- nice segway

          • Gatopardo says:

            segue… Segway is the brand name of a stand-up scooter thingie.

          • Wilson Muir says:

            Disruptive language development is a very
            silicon valley thingle doing the funnies without paying taxes. All stand for the passing of wind.

        • disqus_iV2F8c6S6z says:

          Actually, I just tried to get spell check to tell me if I “canceled” or “cancelled” our reservations, and it didn’t seem to have an opinion. That’s how I ended up here….

        • Laura Richards says:

          In journalism school where we did not use Microsoft Word and spell-check was disabled on the computers, we learned that it was canceled. I can’t speak for the rest of America as to why they do it, but I was taught that it was correct grammar and that adding the extra L made it can-CELLED, as someone else mentioned.

    • Yeah! Canceled is WAY better than Cancelled?!! It’s so great, I’d even go so far as to say it’s briliant… oh wait, you mean brilliant?!

  2. Seems to me the spelling has changed to canceled as Americans get dumber due to being constantly distracted by entertainment. As proof, note the divergence in usage just after 1980, when MTV was born.

  3. “In varieties of English from outside the U.S”, as in actual English from England?

    • Grammarist says:

      No, there are also varieties of actual English unique to Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, South Africa, Nigeria, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and many other countries, not to mention all the subvarieties of actual English within each of these places.

      • “actual English from England” leaves a lot to be desired these days.

      • Pretty much every one of those ‘varieties’, with the possible exception of the Philippines, uses British English, which is why the insistence that US English is the dominant from, or the one with the most users, is misleading at best.

        • form, rather.

        • Actually, even though English speakers are spread through the world, the majority of people who speak English as a first language live in the United States. There are about 375 million (first-language) English speakers in the world, and about 275 million are in the U.S. So if we’re defining “dominant” in terms of the number of people who speak the variety of English, American English is certainly dominant.

          Also, the comment that Canadians, Irish, Australians, New Zealanders, and so on speak British English is simply uninformed. There is no way for us to say that without sounding rude, so we apologize for that. We spend much of our time on this site delineating the differences between the main varieties of English, and there are many, many points on which Canadians, Australians, etc. differ from Britons in their use of English.

        • The US does have the most native English speakers though. Nearly 2/3 of Native English speakers are Americans. It may not be the most widespread, but it is the most used in terms of population. Things get hairier when non-native speakers are taken into account.

        • Wilson Muir says:

          You would’nt be in that cyclone zone recently have been blessed bt Francis of a’jeepney ?

  4. In other words, it is like “orientate.” Misuse is so wide spread that it is now the way to do it?

    • Grammarist says:

      I hope that’s not really what you got from this post.

      • That isn’t what your chart is showing me? It looks like the increased usage has climbed from 1800 to the present for 1 L, while the LL stayed steady until recently when it seems to be falling out of favor. So the post is really saying that either way is acceptable?

        • Grammarist says:

          Actually, let us take that back and apologize for our curt initial reply. You’re right, obviously, but where we would disagree slightly is in calling it a misuse. We would instead call it a growing preference for a once-nonstandard variant, stemming from the longstanding trend in American English toward single-l spellings of participles formed from verbs ending in “-el.” It’s actually surprising that it took so long for “cancel” to change this way, as it happened to other “-el” words about a century ago.

          Anyway, we would say that this is just another example of how English remains in flux, with different forms of words and phrases going in and out of favor, in American English and elsewhere. It’s similar with “orientate”; we’re personally not fans of it, but we would get in trouble with some people in the U.K. and Ireland if we called it an error or a misuse. It’s more accurate (and more diplomatic) to call it a variant of “orient” favored by some English speakers. To us, these things are not as clear-cut as obvious errors like comma splices and using “they’re” in place of “there,” but we understand that there are different views on this. Some people call anything that is nonstandard “wrong” or “incorrect,” but we try to avoid those terms when it comes to usage and some spelling (grammar and punctuation are a different story).

  5. A wonderful site, especially for those of us in Australia who are sometimes caught in what is now called Mid-Pacific usage.

  6. Some claim this is an “irregularity.” But, let’s investigate. The word sum is cancel + -ed gets re-written as…

    The doubling rule says that IF you add a vowel suffix (-ed) to a word that ends in a single vowel, single consonant, you double the final letter (so long as it is not an X or W) UNLESS that syllable is unstressed. and have a final unstressed syllable (similar to suffer/suffering, refer/reference) so by this rule the should not be doubled, as it is not in American orthographic practice. HOWEVER, the other systems take their cue from the British orthographic practice, which actually does introduce another rule, which is that if the last letter of the base or stem is an L, you double regardless of stress (as in fueled in America, fuelled elsewhere). For whatever historic reason, American orthographers have dropped this rule from their spellings.

    It is important to note that BOTH systems are governed by RULES WITHOUT EXCEPTIONS. They are complex rules, but they are precisely regular in their applications (with the one true exception of cancellation in American spelling, which diverges from the rest of our spelling practices). What appears to be an “exception” is really just two sets of rules. There are a few other such divergences, such as -re vs -er as in centre/center and -ise vs. -ize as in organise/organize.

    • Thank you for this answer! It makes a lot more sense now regarding my comparison to “compel” in a previous comment. The “el” sound in compel/compelled/compelling is stressed whereas the “el” sound in travel/cancel/etc. is not.

  7. Thougt I was crazy! says:

    I thought I was going nuts with this canceling vs. cancelling until I stumbled upon this site. When I was a senior in High School my teacher tore my paper apart for using “alot”. You would have thought by 12th grade someone would have told me. Lately I have had many occasions to use cancel [led] [ling] and so on and it’s been driving me crazy. One of my applications I use keeps (PC or MAC I can’t remember) telling me I’m wrong one way or the other and then I will see someone else use the other spelling. Thanks!

  8. It should be noted that the United States does not have an official language. What nobody wants to say here is that English is a very poor language. We can say glamorous things such as, “..English remains in flux..” but [I feel that] English pulls and borrows from too many other languages and cultures, has too many exceptions with too many ambiguous rules, and exists primarily in a country where too many people revel in their ignorance (USA) to ever have a chance at being a whole, and complete, language.

    I dream of a time where English becomes its own language, independent of other nations and word origins, instead being whole and complete in and of itself. I dream that English would have fewer rules and more similarities between words that sound the same. English should remove the words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, in favor of other words. English has too many synonyms. It should instead have better adjectives and adverbs which help perpetuate feeling, value, importance, depth, and hierarchy.

    I am probably alone in this desire, but after all I am just another ignorant American.

    • Hear, Hear! I completely agree. Canceled is just another sign of the end times.

    • Actually, English has ever been its own language. Many other ‘established languages’ themselves borrow from many sources, and English is quite old. It originated as a Germanic language, and sounded far more like Dutch in its past, before the Normans took the British Isles and introduced French into the language. English is the result of the union between a Germanic and Latinate language, a fairly unique blend.

      It is far from a poor language and is in fact one of the preferred languages for writing (among the Germanics) due to its flexibility. It is very much a complete language, and very much a respectable one. It is neither new nor unusual that a language grows organically. Slang becomes proper form in time, and new phrases come and go.

      Ah, and if you feel that English has ambiguous rules, you should research Dutch and German. Both have a number of rules that are often difficult to follow, even for the native speakers. Spelling comes to mind, and the fearsome “dt” rule, which revolves around how to arrange a number of letters at the end of particular words.

      In short, the notion that it is poor or incomplete is simply incorrect. The rest, with your desire to have better adjectives and adverbs, as well as the removal of many synonyms, is an opinion and thus I cannot comment on them. I disagree, but I can see why you would desire such.

      • Wilson Muir says:

        Well the prophet descended the mountain . English is without doubt the richest language and possesses the most subtle forms of expression in the spectrum . Not for every single band within it but borrowing for it’s deficiencies like none other. Your bland critique is awesome in it’s ‘fairly unique’ way.

        • Its: possessive of it. It’s: it is. Spelling before dissing, bro.

          • Wilson Muir says:

            Better put out an APB on a missing apostrophe or an unwanted contraction — but where’s the crimeseen ?

          • Crimeseen… rich! So bad, it’s good—like the acting on CSI: Miami. And just as tiresome. You wonder, “could anyone actually be THAT bad? It must be deliberate self-parody, like when Sylvester Stallone plays himself.” But no, they actually ARE just incompetent, much like you, Mr. Muir, are illiterate, though you fancy yourself a wit. Oscar Wilde, who was one, though, could spell. You see, it’s a basic requirement, sort of an admission fee to the English language. But no, we wouldn’t want a “language police” now, would we, as you delude yourself you defend us from? My hero! Hold me, for I faint! You’ve rescued me from grammatical totalitarianism. I gather now that this “grammar” site (wait, is it “sight”? Better check!) isn’t really about grammar at all, but a showcase for sad buffoons like yourself to put down people who are genuinely concerned with language issues. The saddest moment in a moron’s life is when he realizes he’s not as smart as he thought he was. Ironically, however, precisely because they’re not so smart, that moment often never comes. So enjoy your “language,” you budding writer, you.

            PS: How’s that for “subtle forms of expression in the spectrum,” whatever the fuck that is? Maybe you meant sputum.

          • Wilson Muir says:

            Mirror , mirror off the wall .

          • Gatopardo says:

            That explains it.

          • Fumigator says:

            Burn!

    • If you really want a language like you describe, perhaps you should learn Esperanto, a language designed by committee. Real languages and words evolve over time and by the merits of their use. English’s large vocabulary and openness toward borrowing words is its greatest strength, in my opinion.

    • People often say that English would be better if spelling were standardized. I disagree because the complicated spellings and rules and all the exceptions can be traced back to their origins. English can be seen as a compendium of various European languages (Germanic, French, Latin, Greek). You might redecorate the house your great-grandparents built, or add a garage; but you wouldn’t tear it down and burn all the evidence that it ever existed.

      As a teacher of writing, I’ve edited thousands of writing assignments over the years. I would say that the only times a person was truly constricted by the language was because either they did not understand the rules or they did not have enough of a command of vocabulary. It seems to me the only way you could have fewer synonyms as you described is if you could reduce humans’ experiences to all be the same, and nobody wants that.

    • I, me & myself!!! says:

      I must agree with you, our language is really basic, that’s why it’s preferred for business, anyone can learn it… On the other hand, when we try to learn another language, call it French, Spanish or German, we always suffer, because those languages are more complex and add several other parameters to the language which make them “unique”, not like the “incomplete mix” we have… I hear your willingness to have all those features in a language, guess what, you shall have to switch to one of those “romance” languages… Au revoir!!!

      • English is one of the most complex languages and has a very large vocabulary. It is definitely NOT easy to learn. The reason it is used for business/science/aviation/etc. has nothing to do with it being “easy to learn” but is rather due to the cultural influences of the British Empire and the United States. Prior to the 20th century, French was the most widely used lingua franca because of its cultural and colonial influence in the world.

        • I, me & myself!!! says:

          Well, I guess the “French” influence is coming from older times than the 19th century, probably I’m just mistaken and when you said “prior to the 20th century” you were really talking about several centuries from prior to the 20th. Anyway, the truth is that some languages shall be easier to learn for English speakers than others, and it’s the same the other way around. Let’s just enjoy the language as it is today, as the “consolidation” of languages is inevitable, not a total consolidation, but I believe in some hundreds of years we shall be able to understand other “languages” without a formal education in those languages. Peace! =)

    • I completely disagree. American English is just as America is – a melting pot of words that will always move, adjust and change. American English is a reflection of numerous cultures who have learned to live together and a prime example of how these disparate cultures have adjusted to be able to communicate. It is a whole and complete language unto itself and its uniqueness is because of the borrowing of words from other languages in order to create a mix that still lends itself to the transfer of ideas. It is a colorful language with tons of dialects that can still be understood by anyone who takes the time to learn context. While there are languages that express conceptions such as feeling, value, importance, etc. differently, and yes, sometimes a lot better, isn’t it wonderful to be in a time in human history where you can actually “see” this language adapting to be able to express these type of ideas also?

      • When you’ve been around people speaking another language, you can hear a string of words with an Americanism dropped in because their language does not have a word for that particular idea.
        I just found this site and think it’s wonderful. I’m a retired tech writer and words matter!

    • Wilson Muir says:

      Like ‘Boldly going ‘ into a Star Trek omniverse where there holideck is a Sesame Street for the Romulan apostates .

    • I recommend George Orwell’s Dystopian novel 1984 – it mentions attempting to create a perfected version of English in an area cut off from the rest of the world.
      On a side note, dystopia is being underlined in red as I type.

  9. NuclearWinter says:

    Just wondering, but is there a reason why you use 2000 as the end point for the ngram graph? If you take it up to 2008 there’s actually been a decline in “canceled” since 2000, and “cancelled” is making a comeback. Which I thought that was quite interesting!

    http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=canceled%2Ccancelled&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=17&smoothing=3&share=

  10. boughtnpaidfor says:

    Ngram supports the computer spellchecker influence, showing a freefall in use of “cancelled” starting in the late 80’s. As a Catholic school educated Bostonian (born 1953), I was very accustomed to “cancelled”. I still bristle when pushed by my spell checker to use “canceled” but usually acquiesce, along with many others.

  11. I am keeping the second L. I think it’s due to the laziness of people. Nothing more. This is also the reason we have lost so many words and phrases over the years. I am 28 by the way (notice I didn’t use BTW) Laziness I tell you…all this “text talk” has not helped the matter of losing common spellings and used words.

    • If you take a look at my post elsewhere in these comments, I analyze how spelling it with one L brings canceled into alignment with other similarly stressed verbs, for example pardoned, fattened, carpeted. Excelled should get two Ls because it’s pronounced exCELLED. But spelling cancelled with two Ls, though historically correct, confuses the eye into wanting to pronounce it canCELLED instead of CANcelled. So, I don’t think it’s due to laziness. I think it’s because, wrong though it may be, it makes more sense phonetically.

    • blackcatlover says:

      I agree. So many people don’t know how to spell anymore that the misspellings eventually become “correct”.

  12. Interesting article. A linguist would enjoy analyzing this, I’m sure. It seems to me the reason for the change is that the stress is on the first syllable in cancel. It is customary to double the consonant in the case that there is a single vowel followed by a consonant:

    For example patted, manned, excelled.

    However, it is customary not to double the consonant if that vowel-consonant ending is an unstressed syllable:

    For example fattened, not fattenned. Pardoned, not pardonned.

    Because “cancel” is in a stress-unstress pattern (CAN-cel, not can-CEL), spelling it with a single L brings it into line with similarly stressed words like pardoned and fattened. Spelling it as “cancelled” tricks the eye into wanting to process it as an unstress-stress pronunciation (can-CELLED). I imagine that is the reason behind this switch gaining such popularity… It conforms to the spelling norm.

    The same could be said of travel/traveled, I imagine.

    • Funny, but “canceled” has always set off my wrong meter and when I read traveled/travelled in my head, they sound the same, without any difference in emphasis for either syllable. As a former student of the US public school system, I wonder how it happened for me to be trained that way.

  13. http://i.imgur.com/fQjMGhi.png
    ^This brought me here. The multiple spellings of the word have driven me nuts over the past years and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Very interesting article! I think I prefer the single ‘L’ variant.

  14. Uncle_Tod says:

    I have no sources to quote or historical references, but from my own extensive reading, there appears to be a consistent case for two-syllable words with the first syllable accented and ending in schwa-ell (your comments won’t let me insert the schwa character), such as signal, shovel, gravel, grovel, etc., the practice in the US has been to drop the second ell. I can’t recall seeing a double ell used in mass print (that has been printed in the USA) in over 50 years. I do recall stye guides in the 70s stating that a single ell is preferred. FWIW.

    • Uncle_Tod says:

      Edit: “…the first syllable accented and the second syllable ending in…”

    • I’ve seen ‘cancelled’ (with two L’s) in two American books published recently.

      • I’ve seen books with all sorts of incorrect language. That’s not really an argument. It’s sort of like early census reports. They’re official documents, but they depended on the education of the person taking the census, many of whom needed the money but weren’t really very good.

        • These were both academic books. In any case, cancelled is the internationally acceptable spelling (which the authors themselves have mentioned). You can’t go wrong with cancelled, but you can definitely go wrong with canceled.

  15. This is why the English language is so hard to understand.

  16. Frieser Novman says:

    Funny how I came across this only because I was looking how to solve an error which had ‘canceled’ in it. I guess the program (microsoft word) is Americanized because I live in the UK.

  17. blackcatlover says:

    Probably “canceled” because stupid people who can’t spell kept spelling it that way anyway.

  18. Janelle says:

    The reason for the single “l” is because the second syllable is not stressed. If the accent were on the second syllable, the consonant would have to be doubled before adding the suffix.

  19. Here’s a comment: I think it’s extremely stupid and arrogant for Americans to make up their rules and spellings… The rule says, one consonant makes a long vowel sound and two makes a short vowel sound; there are already enough exceptions to the rules of English grammar; why do they feel the need to make more??

  20. Soooo…what you’re saying is that, once again, the CORRECT spelling is with TWO ‘L’s’ and the American version is the usual ‘We’re special’ abomination that causes confusion everywhere for speakers (or more accurately, writers) of English.
    C’mon U.S.A….just use the same spelling as the rest of us for god sake!!!

    • What makes “the rest of us” special? One ‘l’ is correct in the US, 2 in UK. Spellings have changed on both sides of the Atlantic over the centuries. Sometimes it is England that changed the preferred spelling of words. There are more US than UK English speakers.

  21. Michelle Ramos says:

    This one makes me crazy. I was taught the double-l versions in elementary school and, now, all these years later, spell check tells me I’m spelling it incorrectly. I still prefer the double-l spellings.

  22. English Man says:

    If Americans just learned to spell, that would make life simpler

  23. Author: please reference the ‘ingrain vs engrain’ argument found on another page of this website.

  24. What’s the point in changing the spelling ‘cancelled’ to ‘canceled’? Why did the Americans do that? It looks uglier with one ‘l’, and just makes the spellings confusing for everyone. ‘Cancellation’ has two ‘l’s’ in both, so why not put two ‘l’s’ in all the spellings?

  25. How often are language evolutions like this just a result of simple careless misspellings becoming common enough to drown out the original “correct” spellings? :-(

  26. “In varieties of English from outside the U.S….” – English is English; colloquialisms aside, American English is the “variety”, everyone else uses plain old English. That’s my understanding of it, at least. But English is just a (wonderful!) b*stard mix of older languages, anyway!!

    Anyone with American vs. English spellcheck issues could always change their device settings…

    • England itself does not use “plain old English.” Language evolves on both sides of the pond. There is American English and British English just as there is New World Spanish and Old World Spanish.

  27. Like lots of other people I will put this down to Microsoft and their spell checkers, and Windows’ user interface. (I’d include Macs in there too, but Windows is used more widely, so I’ll focus on MS.) I’ve never seen a double-L in Windows’ interface, and it likes to subtract L’s in its autocorrect when you’ve got the US spellchecker switched on.

    I was heartened, however, to see ‘cancelled’ written with two L’s in two recently published American books. In personal correspondence, too, I tend to see Americans writing it with a double L more than they do with a single one, regardless of age.

  28. Hannah Blessing says:

    I can’t see the Ngram. Wondering about that. I prefer cancelling.

  29. nigga eata says:

    well fuck

  30. nigga eata says:

    watermelon 4 lyfe dont get that shit canceled or cancelled nigga i just eatin that shit bruh

  31. This is fairly standard in that American spellings tend to be more consistent and truer to pronunciation than British spellings. This is another example of that.

    Notice that both spell ‘cancellation’ with two L’s. Why does American spelling use two there? Because in that situation you pronounce a second L. If British English was consistent in this regard, it would then use three L’s.

  32. Interesting, I have always used cancelled even though i am born in California. While in school i used to get docked points for this because according to my English teacher, I was not spelling it right. I showed her old books and was told that it was wrong. canceled just does not seem right to me. Still use cancelled since it looks right in my eyes.

  33. It just looks and feels wrong…
    I feel that the single L tends towards a pronounciation as the L in concealed, the LL encourages the sound of the L in spell… for what it’s worth…

  34. I’m surprised this is as controversial as it is. As others have noted, “canceled” follows the standard American pattern of not doubling the trailing “L” if the last syllable is unstressed, like labeled, modeled, paneled, etc. Words where the “L” is doubled have a stressed final syllable, like rebelled, repelled, excelled, etc. I haven’t done exhaustive research, but I can’t think of any “-el” verbs that don’t conform to this rule in American English. I’m not really making a value judgment as to whether the American pattern is superior to the British one, but we’ve been spelling things that way for a long time, and I don’t see a lot of passionate arguments for “modelled” from Americans.

  35. Thanks for this. I had been wondering about why airport departure and arrival boards usually use the one L version.

  36. I’ll a be total freak… since this is a grammar website. 8-) “but it does not not extend to cancellation” — should remove the second “not”.

  37. osamaobamayomama says:

    It just doesn’t look right unless spelled with 2 L’s. I was always taught and always thought the proper way to spell cancelled, cancellation or any other variant was with 2 L’s and I am from the US.

  38. Dan Norder says:

    “cancellation, which everywhere is spelled with two l’s”

    That’s just not true. It follows the same rules as canceled, canceling, etc., so we would expect it to have similar usage rates. A quick Google search shows the one L version is actually more common than the version with two.

  39. emeraldcity987 says:

    So my Verizon phone with MSN email corrected “cancellation” to “cancelation.” I had to look it up and came here. Interesting.

  40. Kenny P says:

    I just ignore spell check on this ridiculous trend. Why? Here’s an example. Jessi doted over how she should have dotted the “i” in her signature.
    …or…the pronunciation of dessert vs. desert.
    It’s a slipery slope! ;)

  41. DPHS Aquatic Center says:

    Perfect! I’ve been canceling some things recently and had noticed sometimes I get auto corrected for two ll’s sometimes not and thought it looked right both ways in some iterations of canceling, cancelled, cancellation etc. Thanks for satisfying my curiousity!

  42. David W. Carr says:

    Helpful to review today. Thanks.

  43. Alastor says:

    The touchstone example I find most useful for the doubling (or not) of the final consonant in two-syllable words is

    Enter – entered … stress on first syllable

    Inter – interred … stress on second syllable

    You mileage may vary …

  44. Jennifer Flores says:

    Still think it’s just plain ridiculous that because people can’t spell a word correctly that we literally change the spelling to accommodate them. Cancelled has always been spelled with 2 LL’s and to me it will always be. And FYI, I am only 36 yrs old so apparently the spelling faux pas came about during my generation. Pathetic.

  45. homeschool mom says:

    In most phonics programs children are taught that one syllable words ending in a single vowel and a single consonant need the final consonant doubled before adding a vowel suffix. In a two syllable word this rule is only true if the second syllable is accented. Therefore, words like “canceling” or “traveling” do not double the final “l”, but “begin” becomes “beginning”.

  46. Great explanation! Engrained is kinda unusual though :-)

  47. Marie Burr says:

    I think “cancelled” looks nicer.

  48. Devon Llewellyn says:

    Thank you for the clarification on this matter, it came up at work today between a coworker and I. The filthy iPhone I am currently using (Ha) decided all of the sudden after updating it’d auto correct every time to “Canceled” or “Canceling”. Great site by the way!

  49. I am not American nor British; I am what you could call a third party. I would just like to make one comment. It’s fine making this site and telling people how they can or should spell things, but whoever wrote this article, you have the audacity to call the origin of your language an exception to the rule your people changed? Seriously? Okay, that may have been a slightly British inclined approach. In more neutral words: A source attempting to aid spelling internationally, such as yourselves, should avoid domestic bias and supply people with an impartial judgement – note that this is for your own benefit, as some may be put off by national favoritism. If you find this unreasonable, you could change the design of your page to indicate your American predisposition, for example changing ‘grammarist’ to ‘American grammarist.’ Thank you for taking the time to read my comment. I hope you heed my words before writing other pieces that may contain national bias.

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