• Joanna B.

Transcribing in English: British vs American English

While English can be a wonderful language, it could also be very confusing at the same time. Obviously, for those that grew up with American English as their first language, telling the difference would be really easy. However, what about those that didn’t grow up using American English or even those that aren’t too familiar with the difference when it comes to these two branches of English?


For a transcriptionist, knowing the difference between American English and British English is very important especially when it comes to the spelling and the reference as to what a particular thing means. Getting confused with American English and British English could result in getting the context all wrong.

Why is knowing the difference between American English and British English?


There are a few transcription tips at play here but the basic, as well as more important answer, would be to avoid the confusion on both the transcriptionist side and the client's side. A transcript that was transcribed in American English when it should have been translated in British English can be quite irritating and even offensive sometimes to clients.


Knowing the difference, especially when it comes to the client’s preference is important in order to avoid having to do the whole transcription over again. When it comes to certain transcriptions with very important data like medical transcription or legal transcription, a misused, misspelled, or mispronounced word could result in drastic damages.


One very common difference between American English and British English is if the word ends in “er” for American English, and “re” for British English. The word “theater” is in American English while the word “theatre” is in British English. However, this is not the only difference when it comes to British English and American English.


In what ways do British English and American English differ?


As pointed out by the official British Council Foundation, both American and British English can differ in quite a number of different ways like the following:


British and American spelling difference


One of the most common transcription confusions when it comes to British English is when it comes to spelling. There are three simple rules that can be used as transcription tips when trying to find the difference between British English and American English according to the Learners Dictionary.

  • The “u” in American English turns to “our” in British English. This is seen in certain words like Humor and Humour, Behavior and Behaviour, and even Color and Colour.

  • The “ize” in American English turns to “ize” in British English. This is seen in certain words like Realize and Realise, Organize and Organise, and even Dramatize and Dramatise.

  • As mentioned earlier, the “er” in American English turns to “re” in British English. This is seen in certain words like Caliber and Calibre, Fiber and Fiber, and even Specter and Spectre.

The differences, however, do not just end with spelling. In fact, there are other differences when it comes to British and American English.


British and American vocabulary difference


There are thousands of different differences in vocabulary when it comes to British English and American English. Oftentimes, British English can be seen as more detailed and oftentimes uses a wider range of words. However, this is not the only difference.


There are certain words in British English and American English that differ in meaning and differ in use. Of course, in time, a transcriptionist will become more familiar with the difference later on.


The context of the words used in the sentence are very important. People speaking British English use the word "chips" instead of "fries", "flat" instead of "apartment", and a whole lot of other words as well.


British and American grammar difference


When it comes to grammar, there is a very big difference between both British and American English. OneStopEnglish even outlines the underlying difference in sentences that actually talk about a past action having a present effect.

  • American English: Elija is full. He ate too much.

  • British English: Elija is full. He’s eaten too much.

There are also two differences in the terms of prepositions. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the official British English actually prefers “at the end of the month” while American English prefers “on the end of the month.”

British and American English transcription tools


While there could be a deeper technique to master as well as other books that the transcriptionist can read in order to learn more, there are a few transcription tips that point towards the use of transcription tools in order to easily differentiate between British English and American English.


One particular transcription tool that can easily be used is the premium version of Grammarly. This has an automatic option that the transcriptionist can use in order to render the text in either American or British English. This automatically includes autocorrect, grammar check, and even when the vocabulary is off.


Aside from the basic grammar tool, the use of audio-to-text transcription tools, mainly a good one, can easily come up with a final word for word transcription so that the transcriptionist no longer has to worry about the grammar structure. When finally pinning the grammar down, the transcriptionist might be able to tell the difference between British and American English.


Of course, the best answer for many transcription tips is to ask the client which one they would prefer. This could be challenging if the speakers are speaking in British English but the client would request American English. The responsibility of the transcriptionist is to make sure that the whole transcription is uniformed.


It is very important that the transcriptionist keep the whole text in uniform. In no instance should the transcriptionist switch from British English to American English halfway through the transcription except, of course, if the client specifically requests this. However, that does not happen and if it does, picking one or the other is more logical and makes everything easier.


Need help with knowing which kind of English to make use of? Let izitext.io help you. Proofreading and spell-checks are now made easier with the editor feature.


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