Differences Between American and British English
This is one of a series of articles about the differences between American English and British English, which, for the purposes of these articles, are defined as follows:
- American English (AmE) is the form of English used in the United States.
- British English (BrE) is the form of English used in the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Isles. It includes all English dialects used within the British Isles.
American English in its written form is standardised across the U.S. (and in schools abroad specialising in American English). Though not devoid of regional variations, particularly in pronunciation and vernacular vocabulary, American speech is somewhat uniform throughout the country, largely due to the influence of mass communication and geographical and social mobility in the United States. After the American Civil War, the settlement of the western territories by migrants from the Eastern U.S. led to dialect mixing and levelling, so that regional dialects are most strongly differentiated along the Eastern seaboard. The General American accent and dialect (sometimes called 'Standard Midwestern'), often used by newscasters, is traditionally regarded as the unofficial standard for American English.
British English has a reasonable degree of uniformity in its formal written form, which, as taught in schools, is largely the same as in the rest of the English-speaking world (except North America). On the other hand, the forms of spoken English – dialects, accents and vocabulary – used across the British Isles vary considerably more than in most other English-speaking areas of the world, and more so than in the United States, due to a much longer history of dialect development in the English speaking areas of Great Britain and Ireland. Dialects and accents vary, not only between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (which constitute the United Kingdom), and the Republic of Ireland, but also within these individual countries. There are also differences in the English spoken by different socio-economic groups in any particular region. Received Pronunciation (RP) (also referred to as BBC English or Queen's English) has traditionally been regarded as 'proper English' – 'the educated spoken English of south-east England'. The BBC and other broadcasters now intentionally use a mix of presenters with a variety of British accents and dialects, and the concept of 'proper English' is now far less prevalent.
British and American English are the reference norms for English as spoken, written, and taught in the rest of the world; for instance, the English-speaking members of the Commonwealth of Nations often (if not usually) closely follow British orthography, and many new Americanisms quickly become familiar outside of the United States. Although the dialects of English used in the former British Empire are often, to various extents, fairly close to standard British English, most of the countries concerned have developed their own unique dialects, particularly with respect to pronunciation, idioms, and vocabulary; chief among them are, at least for a number of speakers, Australian English and Canadian English.