There are many forms of the English language (known as dialects) around the world. Depending on your target journal, you may have to adapt your text to fit a specific dialect, commonly U.S. American, British or Oxford English (a form of British English). Here, we will dive into the main differences between these three styles of English that are relevant to scientific writing, including spellings, the use of commas and the use of hyphenation.

Spellings

There are many differences in spelling between British and U.S. American English. You can find a full list on Wikipedia’s ‘American and British English spelling differences‘ page, but the basics are outlined below. Oxford English largely uses the same spellings as British English, except that words ending in ‘-ise’ and ‘-isation’ (examples) use the alternative ‘-ize’ and ‘-ization’ spellings, respectively.

Some of the main spelling differences you will come across are:

U.S. American English British English Oxford English
-ise/-ize words -ize

Categorize, categorization

-ise

Categorise, categorisation

-ize

Categorize, categorization

-yse/-yze words -yze

Analyze, analyzing

-yse

Analyse, analysing

-yse

Analyse, analysing

-our/-or words -or

Color

-our

Colour

-our

Colour

-ae/e and -oe/e words -e and -e

Hemoglobin, estrogen

-ae and -oe

Haemoglobin, oestrogen

-ae and -oe

Haemoglobin, oestrogen

-re/-er words -er

Center

-re

Centre

-re

Centre

Doubled consonants Labeled, modeled Labelled, modelled Labelled, modelled
A couple of random ones Acknowledgments

Gray

Acknowledgements

Grey

Acknowledgements

Grey

Oxford comma

An Oxford (or serial) comma is a comma used immediately before the ‘and’ or ‘or’ at the end of a list; for example:

“The solution contained the extracted DNA, RNase, and water” has an Oxford comma.

“The solution contained the extracted DNA, RNase and water” does not have an Oxford comma.

Oxford commas are preferred in U.S. American and Oxford English, but only used when needed for clarity in British English.

Hyphenation

U.S. American English and Oxford English tend to combine certain compound words where British English would keep them separate. Examples are:

U.S. American and Oxford English: cooperation. British English: co-operation

U.S. American and Oxford English: upregulated, downregulated. British English: up-regulated, down-regulated.

Need any help?

If you have any questions about using U.S. American, British and Oxford English in your science writing, feel free to drop us an email (hello@primroselanguageediting.co.uk) or a Tweet (@PrimroseEditing)!