The popularity of the English language spread with the British Empire. Over four centuries, the English vocabulary expanded by absorbing words and phrases from diverse languages and cultures. Various geographies developed dialects–specific styles and patterns in spelling, grammar and sentence construction.
Two of the predominant dialects of English are the British style (through the expansion of the British Empire) and American style (courtesy of American capitalism.)
Differences in spelling and vocabulary are easily noticeable: colour (in British English) v/s color (in American English), cutlery v/s silverware, petrol v/s gasoline, aeroplane v/s airplane, etc. Purists can also recognise differences in grammar and usage: ‘Indianapolis are the champions‘ (in British English) v/s ‘Indianapolis is the champion’ (in American English.)
Guidelines to Choose between British and American English
- When writing for a predominantly American audience, use the American style. When writing for a predominantly British audience, including audience in the former British-colonies (India, Singapore, etc.,) use the British style. For example, use American spellings and grammar to compose a résumé for an ‘on-site’ job opening in the United States.
- Use the style that is apt for the subject of your document. For example, if you are writing an article on the Fall-colours you witnessed during your trip to the United States, use the term ‘Fall‘ instead ‘Autumn‘ to refer to the season, even if you are writing for a predominantly British audience. (‘Fall’ in American English is equivalent to ‘Autumn’ in British English.)
- If you are writing for a broader audience, be consistent–pick a style and stick to it throughout the document.