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Oxford Spelling: What Is It and How Does It Differ From British Spelling?

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Are you familiar with Oxford spelling? It’s similar to British spelling, but there’s one major distinction you should know about: the use of “–ize” vs. “–ise.” We’ll elaborate below.

Analyse versus analyze: Correct use depends on which English dialect you're writing in.
Do you know the difference between Oxford spelling and British spelling?
Oxford Spelling–Quick Summary

Oxford spelling is the established spelling standard used by the Oxford University Press (OUP). It’s used for many British publications. It is characterized by the incorporation of typical British English spelling—except that it uses a “z” in “–ize” suffixes (e.g., organize instead of organise).

What Is Oxford Spelling?

Oxford spelling is the spelling style followed by the Oxford University Press. It’s often regarded as the most international English, and therefore is frequently used in academic and professional writing that has a worldwide readership.

Its defining characteristic is that it incorporates British spelling rules, except that “–ize” words use a “z” (like in American English), instead of an “s” (like in British English).

Below, we’re going to further explain the differences between Oxford spelling and British Standard Spelling and provide examples.

Oxford Spelling vs. British Spelling

As we have already stated, Oxford spelling follows British spelling rules, but there’s one major distinction: Oxford spelling uses a “–z” in words that end with “–ize,” whereas British spelling uses an “–s.”

But why? Oxford spelling favors using the spelling of words that are most similar to their etymological roots.

I organized the closet during my break. (Oxford)
I organised the closet during my break. (British)
John didn’t realize what was happening.  (Oxford)
John didn’t realise what was happening. (British)

In the examples above, organized and realize are more closely related to their Greek root word and therefore use a “z” instead of “s” (the Greek root is “–ιζω,” which transliterates to “–izo”).  

The same rule applies for the version of these words that end in “–ization” (or “–isation”).

Gabriel donated a portion of his check to the organization. (Oxford)
Gabriel donated a portion of his check to the organisation. (British)
The realization hit me like a brick. (Oxford)
The realisation hit me like a brick. (British)

This distinction mostly impacts the “–ize” words, but there are a few others as well. Below, you’ll find examples of Oxford spelling vs. British spelling.

Oxford Spelling

British Spelling









What about “–yse” words, like “analyze” or “analyse”?

It’s important that you remember that the “–ize” Oxford spelling rule only applies to words that have a Greek root. Therefore, words that end in “–yse” also retain the “s.”

  • We had to analyse the results separately. (Oxford and British spelling)
  • He was paralysed with fear. (Oxford and British spelling)

Analyse versus analyze: British and Oxford spelling use "s," while American English uses "z."
The answer depends on which English dialect you’re using.

LanguageTool Supports Oxford Spelling and More

When it comes to Oxford spelling and British spelling, there are more similarities than differences. Both maintain the same standards when it comes to words that end with “–yse,” “–ogue,” “–re,” and more.

However, if you’re often switching from writing in one English dialect to another, or if you struggle to remember the differences between them (there are quite a few, afterall), then make sure to use LanguageTool as your writing assistant.

This advanced spelling and grammar checker supports over thirty languages (including six different English dialects). That means anyone can produce error-free writing, regardless of the language (or dialect) they’re using.‌

Choose Oxford spelling in your LanguageTool settings
Within the British English variety, you can choose to prefer the Oxford spelling.

‌Oxford Spelling FAQs

What’s the difference between Oxford and British spelling?

Oxford and British spelling are similar. The main difference is that Oxford spelling places more emphasis on the etymology of a word, and therefore uses “–ize” suffixes, whereas British spelling uses “–ise.”

Is it “realise” or “realize”?

The answer depends on which English dialect you’re using. For instance, British and Australian English favors “realise.” Oxford, Canadian, and US English uses “realize.”

Who uses Oxford spelling?

Oxford spelling is used by many major British publications, like the scientific journal Nature. It’s also the standard used in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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