Have you ever found yourself in the middle of writing with a good rhythm and flow to your work and suddenly been stuck with a spelling question? Not feeling confident in a word’s spelling can be frustrating and perplexing. The words useable or usable are one pair that can stump even the greatest speller. Why? Because they’re both technically correct. However, there is one spelling that is more widely accepted. Read on to find out more!
What Is Usable?
The word “usable” is the adjective form of the verb “to use.” It describes the extent to which an item or service is able or fit to be used. In other words, it describes the ease at which something functions and how well it works for its intended purpose.
The verb “to use” has been part of the English language since the early 13th century. Adding “-able” to the end of verbs is a common way that English transforms its verbs into adjectives, and “usable” is no exception. Both of these roots come to English from Latin.
In their original forms, the Latin words “usare” and “abilis” have the same meanings as they do in English.
By combining these Latin-based words, we get the word “usable.” Usable, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means something that is capable of being used or is convenient and practical to use.
Since it’s an adjective, you can use it to describe any noun or pronoun.
Using Usable in a Sentence
“Usable” is usable in sentences in a variety of ways. (See what we did there?) Because of its function as an adjective, it can be a helpful way to describe other words. It can appear in the subject or predicate of a sentence as a way to explain the usefulness of an item (or its specific purpose), service, or idea. Check out these example sentences:
- The updates to the browser and Google were designed to make it more usable for its patrons.
- The usable screwdriver made it really easy to add screws to hard-to-reach places.
- Facts are usable in arguments to help strengthen your claims.
- They don’t want usable byproducts in their manufacturing process.
- The idea for a space-themed playground was a neat idea but turned out that the equipment was not usable for smaller children.
- The wheelchair ramp was usable for people pushing strollers as well as those in wheelchairs.
- The gas lawnmower is only usable when you add fuel in.
- You should mention how usable that toaster is!
- Reach for the encyclopedia instead of your phone! It has countless of usable information about the world.
- The dishwasher is loaded with usable features for everyday use.
- The catalog says that it has 2,000 square feet of usable office space.
- Flotation devices are not only usable on a watercraft but often mandatory.
- This coupon is only usable at a participating location.
- Latex gloves are not usable for people with a latex allergy, and they will need to find a more usable glove that is latex free.
Useable or Usable? What’s the Correct Spelling?
The short answer is that both spellings are correct. However, there are some nuances you should be aware of concerning when to use “useable” or “usable.”
First of all, your location is a determining factor in which spelling you should employ. “Usable” without the extra “e” is the preferred way to spell the word in American English.
The addition of the “e” in “useable” is considered more common in British English and Europe.
If you alternated the spelling in either location, you wouldn’t be wrong; you’d just be in the minority.
In fact, depending on where you include the word, you may be autocorrected or flagged by editing software for using the “wrong” spelling for your location or standard of English.
This same “rule” applies to variants of the word, such as useability or usability.
In American English, it is common practice is to remove the extra “e” and spell the word as “usability.”
What is usability, and when would you use it, though?
Usability is the noun form of the root word “use.” If you are describing an item or idea’s usability, you are referring to the quality or state concerning how usable or useable the item is.
Fun fact: In the British spelling, the word “flavor” is spelled with a letter “u” between the letters “o” and “r.” So, from “flavor,” it becomes “flavour.”
Which One Is More Accepted?
The commonly accepted spelling in America is “usable,” whereas, in the UK, the most common spelling is “useable.”
What about other English-speaking countries, though, such as Australia or Canada?
A search using the Corpus of Contemporary English, or COCA, shows that “usable” is almost nine times more common than “useable.”
Interestingly, a similar search done using the British counterpart, the British National Corpus (BNC), will result in nearly the same findings.
Even Merriam-Webster lists the word “useable” as a variant spelling.
Based on these results, the assumption can be made that out of the two spellings, “usable” is more widely used, not only in places where American English is used but worldwide.
Trick to Remember the Spelling
Since both spellings of this word are technically correct, the real challenge may be remaining consistent in which alternative you use.
The word “useable” is a true compound word that combines the word “use” with the suffix “able.”
Fun fact: When you add prefixes or suffixes to a word, you’ll often change the word’s definition. Even what part of speech it is can also be impacted.
If you opt for the more common American spelling or standard usage of the word, it may help to remember that “usable” becomes more usable by removing the extra “e.”
The fewer letters a word has, the more “usable” it becomes.
In the End
Whether you spell “useable” or “usable”, it won’t affect your ability to be understood.
However, since “useable” is much less common, you may be flagged by editing software, which holds a much more black-and-white view of the mechanics of language.
As you read or write, remember that both useable or usable as alternate spellings are correct, but “usable” is much more prevalent in modern English.
Additionally, whichever spelling you choose to employ in your own writing, be sure to maintain consistency by always using the same spelling of the word.