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.
Acknowledgment means to admit you understand or accept the conditions of something. The implicit acknowledgment of information or actions.
History of the Word Acknowledgement
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 2019, 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:
When to Use Acknowledgment
It’s often easily confused because the spelling differences are just one letter. But there’s actually a ton of confusables like this, so don’t worry if you don’t understand the difference.
Use the word acknowledgment to show the act of acknowledging or confessing. People usually use the term for owning up to a mistake or revealing a secret–for example:
- Does the president deserve our forgiveness after the acknowledgment of her mistakes on air?
You may also use the word to recognize someone’s or something’s existence, point, truth, or quality–for example:
- The company’s acknowledgment of LGBTQIA+ rights signals a rebranding.
- My parents nodded as an acknowledgment of my comment.
Another definition for acknowledgment is an award or token of appreciation–for example:
- The students gave her a painting as an acknowledgment of her participation in the research.
- He doesn’t post his volunteering activities because he does not want a lot of acknowledgment.
- She has a long list of acknowledgments.
The last and most common use of the word is a confirmation that something has been received–for example:
- This email is an acknowledgment of your payment.
- This letter of acknowledgment falls upon you.
Does Acknowledgment Have a Plural Form?
Acknowledgment may have a plural form, which is acknowledgment. The noun can be countable or uncountable since you can only use the plural form in certain contexts.
If you’re referring to a section of a book, article, etc., you may call it acknowledgments or a collection of acknowledgments–for example:
- You’re the first person I mentioned in my book’s acknowledgments.
- I will be delivering special acknowledgments at the end of the meeting.
However, in general situations, acknowledgment is an uncountable noun. This form applies to the act of acknowledging something. Use it on the written statement saying a message is received also–for example:
- The registrar emailed an acknowledgment that they received your transcript of records.
- The victim didn’t get an acknowledgment of his payment.
Here are some related words.
Examples of Acknowledgment in a Sentence
Though both forms can be found everywhere, acknowledgment is the correct spelling and 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:
But it is also a tacit acknowledgement that e-readers may not be a quick fix for raising learning achievement. [Guardian]
The Treasurer made the acknowledgement following concerns about weakening Chinese demand for steel. [Australian]
Witness Zadie Smith, in the acknowledgements to NW, thanking the internet-blocking software Freedom and SelfControl. [Irish Times]
The Bottom Line on Acknowledgment
So, basically, if you’re using the term for content that has a primarily US audience, use the spelling acknowledgment. Although both forms are accepted pretty much anywhere, the pesky spelling difference is important. Now that you understand acknowledgment vs. acknowledgement, you can use it with confidence!
Want more breakdowns like this to help with your writing? Check what we have to say about the words cloth or clothes!