In the United States, we spell canceled with one l (or at least I grew up learning and using canceled with one l).

However, now I see more and more people especially in blogs using cancelled, and have also noticed that on the TV I watch cancelled is the preferred spelling. And a few of my few colleagues (mostly around my age, or a few years younger) kind of informed me that one l is incorrect.

I now wonder: are different forms of cancelled taught in different regions of the country? Or has it become trendy for the younger generation to use the British form of spelling?

  • NGrams on canceled and cancelled doesn't really show this (make sure you try AmE and BrE corpora separately to compare. Note that it isn't very good on data after the year 2000. – Mitch May 18 '15 at 15:24
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    It must be a regional thing; I'm American and I've always spelled it with two Ls. – SomethingDark May 18 '15 at 15:35
  • There are countless examples of doubled letters turning into singles. In some respects it's likely generational. I grew up (US) with bussing, towelling etc and now most of those seem almost absent. I blame headline writers (-: – Jim Mack May 18 '15 at 16:18
  • It's draconian to label a widely used variant such as cancelled 'incorrect'. There was the ludicrous situation in the UK a few years ago when the spelling 'sulfur' would invite the loss of a mark in UK English exams, while the spelling 'sulphur' would invite a similar penalty in science. – Edwin Ashworth May 18 '15 at 22:21
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    Having now seen the BrE and AmE ngram results, it's clear that it's both regional and generational. cancelled remains the hands-down favourite in BrE, whereas in AmE it was losing out to canceled , having been eclipsed in 1985, but is resurging since 2000! books.google.com/ngrams/… – Brian Hitchcock May 19 '15 at 7:57

I've seen both spellings: "canceled" and "cancelled". Subjectively, cancelled looks better to me, like it better represents the pronunciation. Objectively, there is that rule which says that you double the trailing consonant for monosyllabic words and you don't for polysyllabic words.

One of the frustrating things is when I use a spelling I know is correct and spell-checker software decides to "correct" it for me. I believe I've seen this happen for "canceled", where the software will correct it to "cancelled" for me. I believe I've also seen this happen when I use "envelop" as a verb and the software will "correct" it to "envelope".

  • Envelop is a thing? What the heck? Edit: its a verb so its ok. – Faraz Masroor May 18 '15 at 21:08

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