The English language can play tricks on unsuspecting minds. One word may sound similar to the other but it could mean a totally different thing. There’s rug and rag. There’s pick and peek. One of the most common grammar problems in English is the use of canceled vs cancelled. Which is correct? How do you spell cancelled (canceled)? Is it really canceled or cancelled?
Which Spelling Is Correct: Canceled or Cancelled?
Both are actually correct spellings and the main difference is which country your audience lives in. The spelling really depends on which version of the English language you use: American vs British English.
American English uses “canceled” with a single “l”. It follows the general rule of appending “-ed” to the end of the verb if the word ends in a consonant. The same goes for “canceling.”
However, British English spells “cancelled” with “ll.” The British do still spell “cancel” with only one “l” though and there is only one correct spelling of “cancellation” regardless of which style of English you use. The same goes for “cancelling.”
When referring to the present tense, such as in this sentence. “I will need to cancel tonight,” the word “cancel” is only ever spelled with one “l” in both American and British English.
Americans prefer to use one L while the British prefer to use two Ls.
Examples of Cancelled vs. Canceled
British: The Beatles never cancelled their performances.
British: The Queen cancelled her visit due to an illness.
American: The American sci-fi TV show “Firefly” was canceled after only one season.
American: The Olympics were canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus.
Why Did Cancelled Become Canceled in American English?
According to Grammar Girl, the difference in usage of cancelled or canceled can be attributed to the influence of Noah Webster in shaping the American English Language as we know today. When Webster published his next version of his dictionary in 1898 (the Webster’s 1898 Dictionary), he decided to shorten cancelled as he had done in previous editions for many British words that had extra letters in them for what he believed was no good reason.
For example, many British words like colour, favourite, and humour were replaced with shorter versions that removed the “u” so that they became color, favorite, and humor in the English language.
Canceled vs. Cancelled In Style Guides
The AP Stylebook, predominantly American, uses “canceled.” Therefore, most American publications and papers written for an American audience use “canceled” in their writing. In addition to this, Mr. Webster has also incorporated standard American spellings that use shorter words compared to its British counterpart. There’s color vs colour, flavor vs flavour and favor vs favour.
By principle, both canceled and cancelled are correct. However, you need to keep in mind your audience and which method they will prefer. Even if you are used to American English, if you are writing for a British, Australian or Canadian audience, you will need to adjust your writing style to communicate more effecitively.