RubyKate (rubykate) wrote in punctuators,
RubyKate
rubykate
punctuators

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I'm wondering about certain words that can be spelt with either a S or a Z, for example, recognise/recognize, customise/customize etc. I spell them with an S and I had previously thought that it was a British thing and that it was Americans who used the Z spelling, but then recently I've noticed a lot of British books using the Z spelling but still the British forms of words like 'colour' and 'rumour'. I've never seen an American text use the S spelling however.

So, are both the S and Z versions acceptable in both countries? Are there any rules regarding their use?
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  • 4 comments
I've never found any real rules separating the use of the two, although it's true that you find the 's' spellings more often in British texts (older ones at that). I think that as long as you're consistent in your usage, and don't flip-flop between the two spellings in one story, it's fine to use either one.
Yeah, I think consistancy is the best answer, thankyou! :)
As far as it goes, with the ''s'' is the British form (and the form used in former British colonies, like Canada and Australia) and with the ''z'' is the American form. I assume that this is mostly because the language evolved in Britain and the original usage was always with an ''s'', but as the preference has been shifting towards ''z'', the changes get a stronger foothold in America where the habit is less ingrained into the language. However, the tendancy of late, what with globalisation and the declining quality of in-class grammar instruction, has been towards people selecting their own individual preference regardless of geography. This isn't one of the really officially noted differences like ''o'' vs ''ou'' or one ''l'' versus two.

Personally, I prefer to use the ''z'' because of the harsher effect in words like ''advertize'' (you can tell what I think of that industry) and because I tend to think that an ''s'' sound is softer than I would pronounce in word like ''recognize''. Also, the rise of ''-ize'' words like ''finalize'' or ''utilize'' (which really don't need to be substituted for ''use'' or the myriad of less grating synonyms for ''complete'') in the buzz word trends of late simply get me into the habit of it even with words that have the alternate version with an ''s'' (for the record, finalize doesn't but utilize does). I only used ''globalisation'' above because I was struck with a tremor of hypocrisy after mentioning that the ''s'' is technically the accepted usage in Canada.

However, there is no real superiority of one use over another, though your teachers (if you are still in school) might expect you to stick to your country's standard. If you don't know what that is, just ask one of them. Otherwise, pick the one that you prefer and be consistent.
Thanks very much! :)

Well, I'm at university in Britain and I noticed that all my university essay guides they gave me used the Z rather than the S spelling, which is what prompted my question. I don't think they'll mind what I use though, as long as I'm consistant.

Personally, I like the S version. I think that even though the pronounciation sounds more like a Z, S looks better written down.