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Canceled vs. Cancelled

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

There’s no doubt that those of us who live in a snowy area are familiar with these two words. Each and every year, winter snowstorms across the country disrupt travelers’ schedules and school operations by canceling flights and classes—or is it cancelling? The two words canceled and cancelled can cause some confusion for those writers not exactly sure when to use which one. Are they just variations of the same word? Do they have different meanings? Do they have different functions in a sentence?

In today’s post I will address all of these questions so that you will never second-guess yourself when writing these words again. So what is the difference between canceled and cancelled?


The word cancel originated from late Middle English (in the sense ‘obliterate or delete writing by drawing or stamping lines across it’): from Old French canceller, from Latin cancellare, from cancelli ‘crossbars’.

Cancel as verb:

Cancel is used as a verb in English language which means to decide or announce that (a planned event) will not take place.

He was forced to cancel his visit.

Cancel also means to neutralize or negate the force or effect of (another).

The electric fields may cancel each other out.

Cancel as noun:

Cancel is also used as a noun in English language which means a mark made on a postage stamp to show that it has been used.

A stamp franked and with an adhesive cancel.

Use of canceled:

Even though the only thing separating these two words is a dialectical difference, it is still important to keep your audience in mind when picking which word to use and when.

Canceled (with one “L”) is the preferred choice in American English. We can thank Noah Webster for this. He is usually credited with the creation of American spellings that have fewer letters than the British counterparts. Color (colour), flavor (flavour), and labor (labour) are a few examples of this. Canceled is the recommended spelling in Webster’s 1898 dictionary. Likewise, The AP Stylebook prefers the use of cancel, canceled, and canceling, but it favors cancellation over cancelation.

Use of cancelled:

Cancelled (with two “L’s”) is the preferred choice in British English and is used much more frequently than canceled. The below chart shows the use of canceled and cancelled (as a percentage of all words used) in British English books, journals, and magazines from 1800 to 2000.


Exeter High School principal Vic Sokul has canceled dances for the rest of the school year. [New Hampshire Exeter]

Canceling the contract would be cheaper but not cheap. [Chicago Tribune]

Many flights have been canceled, forcing more passengers to connect at big and increasingly crowded hubs. [New York Times]

Under current law, it is scheduled to rise to 6.8% on July 1, an increase that Obama has called for canceling. [Los Angeles Times]

Moriarty added that an earlier cancellation could have allowed the slot to be resold, which would have resulted in a credit being issued. [Boston Globe]

Allegations of black market touting by foreign Olympic committees could see thousands of tickets cancelled. [Independent]

Student groups say organizers of the Canadian Grand Prix overreacted in cancelling the free opening day of the event. [CBC]

A New Zealand freediving champion plunged to 125m on a single breath only to have what would have been a world record cancelled. [New Zealand Herald]

It emerged yesterday that the girl, named only as Merthe, had gone into hiding with her family after cancelling the party. [Irish Times]

Canceled or cancelled:

Canceled and cancelled are both past tenses of the verb cancel. To cancel is to annul or invalidate; to decide or announce that planned or scheduled event will not take place. So, which word is which? Is it canceled or cancelled? Here’s what you need to know. Although either cancelled or canceled can be used correctly in the same sentence, it’s important to keep your audience in mind when using these words. Canceled is the preferred American word choice. Cancelled is the preferred British word choice. One simple way to keep track of these two words is that the shorter spelling is American. If you can keep in mind that, generally speaking, British English favors (favours) the longer spelling of certain words, you will be able to remember the difference between these words.

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