Traveled/traveling vs. travelled/travelling

In American English, the inflected forms of travel take one l—so, traveled, traveling, traveler, etc. In varieties of English from outside the U.S., these forms take two l’s—travelled, travelling, traveller, etc.

According to the ngram below, American English adopted the one-l forms in the early 20th century. Many other verbs ending in -el went through a similar transition around this timeOthers, such as cancel, did not change until several decades later. 

This ngram graphs the use of traveled and travelled in a large number of American texts published from 1800 to 2019:

traveled vs travelled ngram



On average, it traveled 4 to 5 miles an hour. [Los Angeles Times]

Morgan claimed the French vessel has been towing at 4 nautical miles, whereas the tugs could have traveled at 6 to 7 nautical miles. [Newsday (dead link)]

But perhaps the most logical of all explanations is that Romney is a time traveler. [Washington Post]

Outside the U.S.

Rousteing is very young, and perhaps not particularly well travelled. [Telegraph]

The $60-million project has been under way since May 2010, snarling traffic and stalling commuters travelling the busy corridor. [Globe and Mail]

That makes him ideally placed to answer the questions every harried air traveller would love to ask. [Sydney Morning Herald]

35 thoughts on “Traveled/traveling vs. travelled/travelling”

  1. I’m American, but I still disagree with the direction we’re going with this and “cancelled”. I was taught that to close off a syllable, one doubles the final consonant before adding -ed, -ing, etc. …and that makes sense to me.

    If “split” becomes “splitting”, why doesn’t “travel” become “travelling”?

    One could say it’s because the word is longer, and a reader should be able to recognize the two syllable root and that the second, unaccented syllable wouldn’t become long. Certainly in American English, where unaccented short vowel become schwas, it makes _some_ sense that we’d have an intuition about those vowels. …but still, it makes it harder for kids to lock in on spelling rules.

    • Amen! who changed the rules, and Who gave them authority to change them? Basically we are just getting lazier and lazier, and don’t want to be bothered with extra keystrokes.

    • I was taught that for a two syllable word ending with a consonant, doubling the final consonant depends on where the stress lies. If the stress is on the first syllable as in “cancel” or “travel”, you don’t double the final consonant. “Cancel” becomes “canceled” and “travel” becomes “traveled”. However if the stress is on the second syllable, you do double the final consonant. “Repel” becomes “repelled” and “compel” becomed “compelled”.

    • “Spliting” would be the progressive verb tense of “splite”. I always think of the doubled consonant as signifying a short vowel sound

      • I think it makes sense. In fact, if this rule is actually true, maybe the origin of this rule is the same as for other languages: for instance, in Dutch, a vowel followed by a doubled consonant will have a short vowel sound, whilst in the construction “consonant + single vowel + single consonant + vowel”, the “single vowel” will have a long vowel sound (I guess it’s the same in English).
        So, for instance, in “lEkker”, the first “E” has a short sound, but in “zEker”, the first E has a long sound.

      • But spell already has two Ls where travel and cancel (the article indicates that the same one-L spelling shift to canceled has also happened in the US) only have one L, so there’s no chance of a similar movement with spelling/spelled.

  2. It’s either English or outside of England English. Making the latter a foreign form of English. The last time I checked, England were speaking English well before the 20th century. Albeit slightly different to today’s vernacular. Therefore, Google spell checker is often nonsense compared to the original language. And pretty annoying to us English English that speak English.!

    • Would it be fair to just start calling it ‘American?’ It literally sounds foolish, but to say, I speak American, would just say it like it is. It feels dumb rolling off the tongue, but isn’t that kind of the point? Compared to myriad other languages, American is ridiculous to learn and teach. Classify it as its own thing; let it be done.

      • No, calling an English dialect American is ridiculous. English may refer to an England inhabitant but it also refers to a language proper. Calling it American just because it does not sound exactly like modern day England English is ridiculous. Do Canadians speak Canadian, the Scottish speak Scottish? Most of us can at least understand the gist of what the other is saying, therefore it is ALL English.

        As a side note, I’ve heard that certain American varieties of English have evolved less even than much modern day English English (British English if I feel mischievous enough to irritate the English).

    • Google spell checker irritates me too and I’m American. I’m sick of the red lines when I KNOW I’ve spelled something right.

      • As an Australian, It’s always a bit of a pain to go in to the settings of any software or online service and change my spelling setting to ‘English (UK)’.. never happens automatically and it takes a certain build-up in annoyance level to motivate me to go in and change it.

        • Make Australia more important on the world stage and you can have English (UK) be the default in software. In fact, you might even get your own English version, English (AUS). ;-)

        • There may be a Karmic equalibrium working here: my MS-Word program fairly frequently defaults to specifically Australian usage.

          for the whole discussion: It really would be a favor to future
          generations if we writers of English went over to one of those
          simplified versions of the International Alphabet: “traevEling”,
          “spEld”, etc.— and putting commas and periods with American quotation
          marks where they bloody-well belong.

  3. I think it’s just a matter of rules based upon what side of the pond one is on.

    For instance, as an American, I notice that those protesting the American rules have misplaced their quotation marks inside their commas and periods, which is wrong in American usage, and their “teaching” taught them better there, too, yet they improperly use lessons never taught them (that are indeed incorrect in North American usage today), yet infer that the rulemakers are taking added liberties catering to lazy traits.

    I have always spelled traveling as so. That’s how I was taught in the 70’s and my word processors have always ensured that spelling.

    Could it be that people tend to protest versions apart their habits, proper or otherwise? That’s been my observation.

    • American usage places commas and periods inside quotation marks. The British standard is to place commas and periods outside of the quotation marks unless they are part of the original quotation. The choice of American or British usage in this area is somewhat controversial in the STM (scientific, technical, medical) publishing field, in which I am employed. The American Chemical Society uses the British standard, stating in their style book, “…if the punctuation is not part of the quotation, the writer should not mislead the reader by inferring that it is.” I agree with ACS, but my editor does not.

      Your grammar tutelage took place in the 70s (no possessive).

      • You’re of course, right on the no possessive of the 70s. I often see this presented incorrectly and have been in so many debates about it that I caved to popular usage (and word processor toleration which can be unreliable), but the rules shouldn’t change. Demerit to me. Credit to you. Thank you.

        On the placement of the quotation marks, I would regard ACS’s position (per your representation) as inescapably flawed. They’re simply attempting to change the rules of American standard to suit their notions. That’s akin to us running through stop signs because we disagree with the placement thereof. The ACS is not the police of the rules.

        I suspect that this is the sole result of unchecked egotistical pride in some of their top principals to defend their flawed usage. In other words, when shown to be incorrect, change the rules and attempt to justify it. (Echoing my aforementioned statement that many people tend to protest versions apart their habits, proper or otherwise.)

        Making no mistake, your editor is resoundingly correct.

        • Except that he isn’t. Your position is as inherently flawed as your regard for the ACS. I was raised and educated in the U.S., and this nonsense of including punctuation that’s not part of the quote within the quote is appallingly gauche. Elementary school nuns beat grammar rules into us, and they make more sense than the American disregard for proper usage.

          • The only inherent flaw is your reckless disregard for the rules in favor of your own stubborn preferences which you hold onto in defiance and demand others do it with you lest they be “appalling.”

            Your characterization of American usage “nonsense” is hardly justification for trampling of those proper rules. If you were educated here, then you know that. Do you routinely break US traffic laws which you disagree with, too? You do it with keyboarding because you can. Thus holding onto what you claim nuns taught you. Of course, they have plenty of teaching regarded flawed in the modern age. But let’s not miss that this is actually about your personal preference.

            Indeed, the rules stand. They are what’s used in every credible journalistic source, and supported by every credible authoritative source, nationwide. What’s “appallingly gauche” is your separatist view on it, yet defiantly demanded as the only sensible way. So unnecessary.

          • I’m not sure you have a full understanding of this issue. I wouldn’t call adhering to UK punctuation conventions a “trampling of those proper rules”. Usually called “logical quotation”, this is the preferred standard of the Linguistic Society of North America and almost every scientific and technical publication in America. CAC-DC’s editor must follow the conventions of his or her industry, thus making your comment at best inaccurate, and at worst biased.

            Is this about personal preference? In the end, I guess that’s all it is, but it’s not as rigid as you make it out to be. I am by no means a separatist. There’s a fundamental shift happening now where more writers are following the UK method. Several editors at major publications have noticed this trend, and bloggers and other media writers are leaning that way as well.

            An honest answer to your question: yes, I routinely break traffic laws, but not in a scofflaw sense of entitlement. It’s ludicrous waiting 5 minutes at a red light on a deserted street at 3 a.m. or going 50 m.p.h. on an open freeway. That’s not exactly an apt comparison to grammar policies though.

          • By separatist, I refer to justification of a diversion away from proper standards within the US (where you were taught) in trade for an outside source simply because it meets one’s inclination to set their rules to their own personal preference (like you running red lights because you deem the waiting time unnecessarily hampering your patience level), and being clear, notwithstanding regional application.

            Another way of looking at it is that this is generally the domain associated with internet (chat/email), bloggers, pop-culture (erroneousness) amateurs; i.e. informal writers. Meaning, those either uninformed or purposely/persistently defiant, but both only to justify their flawed habits by embracing some fanciful trend of bashing the rules because they like their habits better (or have too much pride to be corrective of their flaw), and then find others of esteem doing largely the same, then conveniently using their “logical” justification for doing so. The LSA and Wikipedia would be superb examples of that.

            Both the former and the latter have British members, some of rank, that constantly protested the disruption of their preferences, just like you (and those like you) and, thus, someone caves and the outfit adopts to their preferences (not necessarily correct, certainly in American application) style, and then conjures up the whole “logical” thing to underpin their rebellion. Urban diction on steroids. (You’ll notice words like “ain’t,” “anyways,” “alot,” “impactful” and irregardless” are urban darlings that have overwhelmed their way into quasi credible sources, flawed as they are.)

            As far as “almost every scientific and technical publication in America,” I emphatically say otherwise. Sure, there’s a trend of vacaters. Pouting mutinies are nothing new. That doesn’t make their grievances (indolent pride being ruffled) somehow correct or justified in the breaking of the rules. Your handy “It’s ludicrous waiting 5 minutes at a red light on a deserted street at 3 a.m. or going 50 m.p.h. on an open freeway” bit helps me define the archetype and solidify that point. Thank you. It certainly is an apt comparison. Is it ever.

            One can pick up any Scientific American, Discover Magazine, Nature, National Geographic, etc., etc., etc., and in fact, the overwhelming majority of American book, magazine, and newspaper publishers, as well as the producers of professionally edited (and US-based) journals and websites unanimously adhere to proper American standard. Anything apart this is the picket line of preference separatists, irrespective of other separatists sharing the mutiny.

  4. I’m American but live abroad and tend to use the double ‘l’ for travelling and cancellling, in order to fit in with the register of Europe. I like the rule pointed out below by the contributer who points out that the stress on the first syllable indicates the need for the doubling, whereas the accent on the second syllable does not – – but this logic wouldn’t apply to enrol or omit, both of which become enrolled and omitted (and similarly with their gerund forms).

    • Actually, didn’t that poster say the opposite? That if the stress is on the second syllable of a two-syllable verb, then you double the final consonant. The example was rapPEL, so it becomes rappelling. Your examples likewise stress the second syllable, so enROL becomes enrolling, and oMIT becomes omitting. CANcel and TRAVel, however, should not be doubled under this rule. So, it’s all consistent.


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