I'm struggling with "enroll" and "enrollment". Both answers (this one and this one), given to this question, as well as Wikipedia seems to be suggesting, that double "l" is more common in British English, while single "l" in American English.

However, on contrary to above, when browsing grammarist.com or Longman I can clearly see, that double "l" is claimed to be American English form, while single "l" seems to be British English form.

Is "enrollment" some kind of exception (and if yes, then what kind)? Or why double "l" is sometimes considered British English and other time -- American English?

  • 4
    Is your question really "Why is there so much inconsistency in English?", or is it about how to spell "enrollment"? If it's the first one, then the answer is "It's a hodge podge of loads of different languages and evolves arbitrarily and according to demand, without any formal approval process". If it's the second question, then you've already answered it. Jun 3, 2016 at 14:18
  • There are several other differences between British and American spelling patterns. For example, in many cases, the British prefer to use "our" where the Americans prefer "or". Examples include colour / color and harbour / harbor. Note also spectre vs. specter, artefact vs. artifact, and many others. For the most part, there is more consistency within a given region than there is between regions.
    – PellMel
    Jun 3, 2016 at 14:29
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    The double 'l' difference the answers are talking about happens when you add suffixes to verbs. AmE: labeled, modeled, quarreled, traveled. BrE: labelled, modelled, quarrelled, travelled. In other cases, I don't think there's a systematic difference. Jun 3, 2016 at 14:44
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    @PeterShor Yes I agree entirely. As regards enrol, the OED provides enroll as an alternative spelling. But it gives no indication that either spelling belongs to any country, which it normally does in cases where there is a recognised British/American distinction such as with color/colour.
    – WS2
    Jun 3, 2016 at 16:56
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    @WS2: They probably should. Looking at Ngrams, enroll is the preferred American spelling and enrol is the preferred British spelling (except for a strange spike in the U.K. around 1978). Jun 3, 2016 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


You have to keep in mind that <l> and <ll> are both extremely common in English, regardless of region. For example, bill is always spelled <bill>, and nil is always spelled <nil>; excel is always spelled <excel>, and retell is always spelled <retell>. There are a lot of individual rules, but there's no single over-arching pattern, and the rules don't cover everything. For example, how come lily has one L, while filly has two? (In this respect, <l> vs. <ll> is much like many other aspects of English spelling. English spelling is not quite as random as people like to claim, but, well, there is a lot of arbitrariness.)

So, what you've noticed is that there are (at least) two cases of regional variation involving the choice between <l> and <ll>:

  • in enrol/enroll and enrolment/enrolment (and a few other such words, such as fulfil/fulfill and fulfilment/fulfillment), the <l> spelling is British and the <ll> spelling is American;
  • in words like traveled/travelled and labeled/labelled, the <l> spelling is American and the <ll> spelling is British. (Though labelled and travelled and so on aren't actually all that rare in the US — or they weren't until spell-checkers became prevalent — so this distinction may be exaggerated.)

These may seem contradictory, but really it's just that they're basically unrelated. Both are cases where the arbitariness of <l> vs. <ll> has shaken out differently in the US as in the UK, but there isn't much reason to expect that one region would have happened to end up with <l> in both cases and the other with <ll> in both cases, because there's no connection between the two. Both regions still have <l> in thousands of words and <ll> in thousands of words — mostly the same ones — and these are simply two edge-cases where words got grouped differently on the two sides of the pond.

  • Thanks for the point about labelled and travelled being perfectly fine in the States, Microsoft be damned. I'd add cancelled and progammed to that list; there are many others. Language isn't binary.
    – tchrist
    Jun 5, 2016 at 5:03

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