Advisor or adviser refers to someone who provides advice, like a lawyer or counselor. But the subtle difference in their spellings largely hinges on geography.
Advisor (with an O) is the commonly used spelling in the U.S., while adviser (with an E) is considered the older version and is usually the preferred British choice and globally more accepted. But why should you care? Because getting the spelling right shows your attention to detail and cultural awareness.
So, to set you straight, I’ll clarify the spelling, meaning, and usage of these two terms. I’ll also dig into the when and where each version is generally accepted, letting you know how to choose the right spelling for the right audience.
Adviser vs. Advisor – What’s the Difference?
Adviser and advisor have the same definition but different spellings. Both nouns refer to someone who advises. But adviser is a more popular term, especially in North America. It’s also less formal than advisor, which often connotes official job titles.
How to Use “Advisor”
The slight difference between advisor and adviser is that advisor is more common in official titles. Sometimes, it’s just an alternative spelling of adviser, which means a person who offers advice.
The -or suffix has a Latin origin, which you’ll often find in government, academic work, and job titles. The -or suffix is also commonly used alongside verbs with Latin roots.
Still, the supposed use of advisor as a formal term for a plethora of titles remains an unproven theory. Here are a couple of examples.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]
Notice how the sentences use advisor in formal contexts. For example, financial advisors are more common in professional titles than financial advisers. The same is valid with academic advisor over academic adviser and national security advisor over national security adviser.
How to Use “Adviser”
There is confusion between adviser and advisor’s use. But you can use adviser the same way you would use advisor. The spelling is just different.
Most publications in the US, the UK, or elsewhere in the English-speaking world use adviser as the preferred spelling. Oxford English Corpus states that adviser appears moreoften. It’s also a more informal term for casual contexts.
Many guides list adviser as the recommended spelling, with advisor being a mere variant. Here are some sentence examples.
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]
Both advisor and adviser have English roots as they appear in American English and British English texts starting the 1600s. But experts believe that adviser is more famous because it appeared several years before advisor.
The two are acceptable choices in any situation. There are no negative implications for using each unless you are required to follow a style guide in your work.
For the AP style, use adviser. If you’re addressing a person’s company-conferred job title, check the company’s spelling.
Exceptions On Adviser Vs Advisor
One of the few rules on using advisor versus adviser is to be consistent, especially in proper names and titles in quotations. If your writing mentions adviser, use adviser throughout the text.
For example, a company calls employees who answer financial questions and gives investment advice investment advisers or investment adviser representatives. That means you should stick to the –er suffix. Using investment advisor would be wrong.
A legal term like the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 also requires the correct suffix. This law is also the main reason investment advisers prefer adviser over advisor. They register as an investment adviser even if their company term is advisor.
Outside these regulatory terms, most writers have a preference for adviser. But advisory is still its adjectival spelling instead of advisery. The adjectival form of adviser refers to having the power to make recommendations but not to perform action enforcing them.
How to Remember the Difference
There’s no need to remember the difference between the two terms since they have the same meaning. Just observe the consistency in using them in your writing and speech, and take note that the choice of spelling might vary according to industries and companies–for example:
- Pandemic-related experiences have changed the way academic advisers work.
- Pandemic-related experiences have changed the way academic advisors work.
Both are correct because academic advisers and academic advisors are used in a general sense.
Adviser and advisor are agent nouns, which indicate that a person is doing something. The agent noun form for read is reader, while dance is for dancer. The natural noun version usually adds –or or -er at the end. Here are some additional examples:
- Teach, teacher
- Employ, employer
- Love, lover
- Convert, convertor
- Drive, driver
Is it Advisor or Adviser in the UK?
Most writers’ original question in the advisor vs. adviser discourse is which one to use in British English and American English.
There’s a myth that advisers are only for British English, while advisors are for American English. However, the familiar adviser spelling predominates in both regions. The British English spelling is a matter of choice, although the connotations of adviser are less formal.
Both adviser and advisor are acceptable–for example:
- You can trust an investment adviser for personalized advice on your investment choices.
- You can trust an investment advisor for personalized advice on your investment choices.
How do You Spell Adviser in Australia?
There’s also no difference between adviser and advisor in Australia. But the Macquarie Dictionary considers adviser the primary spelling–for example:
- The boutique investment adviser gives professional advice to clients with deals less than $500 million.
Legal Adviser or Advisor?
Both legal adviser and legal advisor are acceptable terms that refer to someone who gives legal advice. Government officials who are also lawyers can get the title Legal Advisor or Legal Adviser.
What is the Plural of Advisor?
The plural form of advisor is advisors since it’s a regular noun. The same rule applies to adviser, whose plural form is advisers.
Adviser and Advisor are the Same
There’s no knockout on the battle of advisor vs. adviser. But based on the strong punches adviser made, the –er suffix wins! The word is more common in North America, Australia, the UK, and other English countries.
Always be consistent in using adviser or advisor in your speech and writing. Follow the industry spelling if you have to, just like with imposter vs impostor.