Differences Between American and Australian English

If you are an international student, you will have probably noticed the confusing differences that exist between American and Australian English. You may have noticed several different day-to-day terms, as we have tons of Aussie specific slang over here. However, today we are going to focus on the language differences you will need to understand for your academic writing. Broadly speaking, Australian English tends to follow British conventions. However, there are a few notable differences.

-our vs. –or

Australian English tends to favour ‘-our’ endings rather than the ‘-or’ that our US cousins favor (see what I did there?!). Other words that follow this pattern are colour/color, behaviour/behavior and neighbour/neighbor. A notable exception is the political party The Labor Party, who spell labor with an -or ending.

-tre vs. -ter

Several words which originally came from the French retain their -tre ending in Aussie English. So we have the words ‘centre’, ‘theatre’ and ‘metre’, whereas the Americans use ‘center’, ‘theater’ and ‘meter’.

-ise vs. -ize

Although -ize endings are sneaking into Australian English, the standard spelling preferred is still -ise. So, we use ‘authorise’ rather than ‘authorize’, ‘plagiarise’ rather than ‘plagiarize’ and so on.

-c rather than -s

In US English, the word ‘practice’ is always spelt with a ‘c’. However, in Australian English, we differentiate between the noun ‘practice’ and the verb ‘practise’. So while we ‘have a band practice’, we ‘practise the tuba’.

-oe and -ae vs. -e

While British usage is rigid about this, us Aussies prefer to be a bit more relax and mix it up a bit! So we write ‘manoeuvre’ but ‘encyclopedia’.

Double Consonants

In Aussie English we generally go for double consonants, such as ‘focused’ rather than ‘focussed’, and ‘targeted’ rather than ‘targetted’. However, we have an exception to this rule. Across the US and Australia, the spelling ‘program’ is preferred. In the UK, this spelling is only applied to computer programs.


Irritatingly, there are some words that are just spelt completely differently. So in the US, you might use ‘aluminum’ whereas in the UK or Australia you’d have to use ‘aluminium’ instead. This word is not part of a wider trend, it’s just one you’ll have to remember unfortunately!



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