labelled or labeled?
Labelled in the UK, the same applies to labelling. In the US it is labeled and labelling.
labour or labor?
In the UK, Australia and New Zealand (NZ), the word for work is spelt labour. The political party of the same name is spelt Labour in the UK and NZ only. In Australia the political party is called the Labor Party. In the US, labor is another word for work and there is no political party of the same name, even if they have labor unions.
langour or langor?
The spelling langour is always spelt that way in both British and American English.
larva or lava?
Lava comes out of volcanos and a larva (plural larvae) is the second stage in the development of insects, the first being an egg and the third a pupa, and the fourth an adult.
Like ship, the word launch is often abused in corporate writing. Much of the time start and begin are better. 'The business launched in 2009' is better written as The business started in 2009. The same could be said of complete(d), which on Plain English can be rendered finish(ed), ended, over or done.
lay or lie?
Click here for details.
leaned or leant?
Leant in the UK (with leaned a variant) and leaned the only US option.
learned or learnt?
Learnt in the UK (with learned a variant) and learned the only US option.
leaped or leapt?
Leapt in the UK (with leaped a variant) and leaped the only US option.
Lebanon or the Lebanon?
It’s simply Lebanon, not the Lebanon.
led or lead?
The past tense of 'to lead' [ee] is led [e], not 'lead' [e]. The metal is called lead [e].
lend or loan?
Generally speaking, you lend someone an object but loan them money.
less or fewer?
See fewer or less?
leukaemia or leukemia?
Leukemia is the standard spelling in both the UK and the US.
levelled or leveled?
Levelled in the UK, the same applies to leveller and levelling. In the US it's leveled, leveling and leveler.
libelled or libeled?
Libelled and libelling in the UK and libeled and libeling in the US.
licence or license?
It is licence the noun (in the UK) and license the verb (in the UK), while license is both noun and verb in the US.
lightyears or light-years?
It can be spelt either light-years or light years. Also, light-years are a measure of distance, not time. Don't say 'Not in a million light-years'.
Can we, like, just stop inserting this annoying word in every sentence?
like or as?
See as or like?
likeable or likable?
The standard British and preferred Canadian spelling is likeable and the preferred US spelling is likable.
lineage or linage?
The word for ancestry or descent is lineage, while the word linage means "many lines" (e.g. on a page or road).
licorice or liquorice?
In US English the preferred spelling is licorice and in the UK only standard spelling is liquorice. These differences in spelling are quite absolute on each side of the Atlantic, though a minority write licorice in British English because of the French word it derives from. In Canada and Australia the spelling is usually licorice. Interestingly, the British spelling comes from a misunderstanding that it is conncted with liquor, which it is not. Instead, it comes from Old French licorice, and liquiritia in medieval Latin and glycyrrhiza in the original Greek, meaning 'sweet root'.
liter or litre?
Litre in the UK and liter in the US.
liveable or livable?
The standard British and Canadian spelling is liveable and the standard US spelling, according to Webster's-Merriam, is livable.
With a hyphen.
lose or loose?
I am constantly surprised at how many people get this wrong in writing. Lose ('looz') is to misplace something or not win. Loose ('luce') is something that is not tight or firm.
loser or looser?
The same (above) is true of calling someone a 'looser' ('loozer') when they actually mean loser ('lucer'). As my old high-school teacher used to say: Why are you calling him/her a loser? Do you think that you are a winner?
louver or louvre?
In the UK it is louvre and in the US louver.
loveable or lovable?
In British English, loveable is preferred while lovable is standard in the US.
lowlifes or lowlives?
The plural of lowlife is lowlifes.
lozenger or lozenge?
The correct spelling is lozenge and lozenges (plural).
lucer or lucre?
Lucre is the correct spelling in both British and American English.
luster or lustre?
Lustre in the UK and luster in the US.
This page last updated: 15 November 2014
Jesse Karjalainen is the author of The Joy of English: 100 conversations about the English Language, Cannibal – the language and history of the discovery of the New World, and Roanoke – the language and history of Early Colonial America.