Canceled or cancelled - Ginger Software
Spelling Book

Confusing Words

Canceled or Cancelled

Canceled and cancelled are two words with exactly the same meaning. They are the past tense of the verb cancel, meaning to decide or announce that a planned event will not be taking place. Canceled, with one L, is the preferred spelling of the word in American English, whereas cancelled, with a double L, is the preferred spelling in British English. Both words are correct, but the spelling is determined by whether you are in the United States or in a country that uses British English.

Canceled or Cancelled – What is the Difference?

There is no difference between cancelled and canceled, except that the former is used in British English and the latter in American English. Why is this the case? Some words have slightly different spellings depending on whether it’s American English or British English. Words like traveled/travelled (the past tense of travel) follow the same pattern.

When to Use Canceled

Use canceled as the past tense of cancel when corresponding in American English.

  • The exams at Harvard were canceled after a flu outbreak.
  • We canceled our trip to Las Vegas.
  • Is the concert canceled?
  • I hope the rodeo isn’t canceled this fall.

When to Use Cancelled

Use cancelled as the past tense of cancel when corresponding in British English.

  • The Prime Minister cancelled planned local elections across England.
  • The Epsom Derby was cancelled due to safety concerns.
  • Will the tennis match be cancelled because of the rain?
  • In the end, my contract with the firm wasn’t cancelled, and I will begin work on Monday.

Remember: the present participles canceling and cancelling are also different if you are using British or American English.

  • I have thought about canceling our trip due to safety concerns. American English.
  • Elton John is cancelling all shows until further notice. British English.

Tips to Remember the Difference

Here is a trick for remembering the different spelling of the word cancel. Canceled/cancelled is just one example of how words can be slightly different in American English and British English. In America, words like labor, color, harbor and favor are used, whereas in countries that use British English, those words are labour, colour, harbour and favour. Have you noticed a theme? The words are pronounced in the same way, but American English has got rid of unnecessary letters, in this case, the U. The same theory has been applied to the extra L in cancelled and travelled. Therefore, if you are in doubt, it’s a safe bet that the American English is the shorter spelling.

Exception

If words like cancelled and cancelling become canceled and canceling in American English, you might expect the noun cancellation to also drop an L. This is not the case, as cancellation is spelled with two Ls in both American English and British English.

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