Grammar 4 min read

Cancelled or Canceled: Which one is Correct?

Whether you spell canceled with one L or two probably depends on where you live. If you’re trying to decide if something is cancelled or canceled, this guide answers the burning question: one L or two?

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Main Takeaways:

  • Canceled and cancelled are both correct spellings.
  • The single-L spelling is preferred in American English. Cancelled with two Ls is preferred in British English.
  • The single-L variation apparently came from an American desire to simplify spellings.
  • Cancelling and canceling follow the same country-specific preferences as cancelled and canceled.
  • Cancellation is always spelled with two Ls.

It’s every traveler’s nightmare. Snow is falling. Ice covers roads and runways. All flights are canceled

…or are they cancelled?

If you’re wondering whether to use cancelled or canceled, well, it might depend on where you’re from.

One L or Two: Spelling Across the Pond

Canceled/cancelled is the past tense of cancel. It’s a verb that means, among other things, to call off something that’s been planned. People often debate about its spelling, with many left wondering: how do you spell cancelled (with one L or two)?

Both spellings are correct. The one you choose typically depends on where you live. Canceled is the common spelling in American English. British English favors the double-L spelling of cancelled.

Is it cancelled or canceled? The answer is, both words are correct.
Is it cancelled or canceled? The answer is, both words are correct. British people prefer to spell it “cancelled,” while Americans spell it as “canceled.”

Examples of U.S. vs. U.K. Spellings

(American English): He canceled the show a few minutes before it starts due to an emergency.
(British English): The school principal cancelled all classes when some pipes in the cafeteria burst suddenly.

Why Do Americans Spell It Canceled?

Some grammar history buffs attribute the American English spelling of canceled to Noah Webster of Webster’s Dictionaries. More likely, the second L was dropped because of an American desire to shorten spellings.

We can trace the U.S. spelling of canceled back to the time period between 1806 and 1828. Back then, Noah Webster aimed to reform the spelling of many British English words because he believed they were so complex.

In the 1806 version of Webster’s Dictionary, the word canceled was spelled cancelled. However, in the 1828 edition, the second L was dropped from cancelled, and it became canceled. Other British English words were also changed like:

  • waggon to wagon
  • centre to center
  • apologise to apologize

These 19th-century dictionaries may not have created the spelling difference. However, Webster often included the most common variation at the time in the newest volume.

Examples of British/American Spelling Differences

If you look at U.S. versus U.K. spellings, you’ll notice plenty of spelling differences. U.S. versions are often shorter and simpler. They may also more closely follow the pronunciation.

Other examples of British/American spelling differences include:

  • Colour/color
  • Traveller/traveler
  • Manoeuvre/maneuver

Cancelling or Canceling: More Cross-Atlantic Confusion

Differences in British vs. American spellings of canceled and cancelled lead us to a second pair: cancelling and canceling. This pair follows the same regional rules. British English favors—or favours, if you will—cancelling. American English prefers canceling, one L only.

(American English): Hes upset to hear them talking about canceling the trip.
(British English): After dozens of complaints, he finally considered cancelling the controversial interview.

Cancellation: The Exception to The Rule

That brings us to cancellation or cancelation. Americans may drop the second L in almost every version of the word cancel, but cancellation is the exception. You need to spell it with two Ls, whether you are British or American.

Maybe that’s because cancellation is a noun. The versions that have different spellings are primarily verbs.

Cancelled or Canceled: The Bottom Line

It’s easy to forget an L when there should be two or to add an L when there should only be one. Here’s the bottom line. Whether you spell it cancelled or canceled, it doesn’t really matter.

Despite each country’s spelling preferences, they’re just that—preferences. Neither way is actually wrong.

If you’re in the United States and want to add that extra L, go ahead. Be bold! Be a rebel! If you’re in Great Britain and want to leave off that second L, go for it. No matter how you spell it, you won’t be wrong.

Read More: Among Vs. Amongst: Their Differences And Proper Usage

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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