Cancelling or canceling

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Hutschi, Dec 6, 2006.

  1. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Hi, I'm wondering about a phenomenon. The spelling checker of Word 2003 says "cancelling" is wrong, and it should be "canceling".

    The spelling checker of Robohelp, however, accepts it.

    Could you, please, help me, and tell what is right?

    I suppose, it is regionally different (for example, AE/BE). Does the other region accept the other form, respectively?

    Best regards
  2. pyan

    pyan Senior Member

    Vendée, France
    English, UK, London
    Cancelling is BE and canceling is AE.

    I can change the language on my Word 2003 even within sentences. It copes easily with several different Englishes or other languages in one document.

    I am sorry I cannot answer your question about regions 'accepting' the other form but it would certainly be recognised as a standard English.

    I hope the first bit of this reply is helpful
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Canceling and similar single letter variations of words we spell with double letters, are noticeable, but acceptable if consistently used in text from an obviously non-BE source. It's just like other AE/BE spelling variants. In text from the UK part of an AE-speaking organisation, though, I would expect the BE spelling to be used.
  4. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Thank you very much. This helps a lot.

    Best regards
  5. Giordano Bruno

    Giordano Bruno Senior Member

    English, England
    The general rule is that the final consonant is doubled if the final syllable is stressed.
    For example: Transfer > Transferred > Transferring
    Offer > Offered > Offering.
    The exception to this rule is words ending in “l” in BE are always doubled. AE has logic strongly on its side.

    Pyan, I wish I had your luck with "Word"
  6. I'd also like to say that "cancel" with two l's or "canceling" with two l's is extremely common here in the US although it really isn't the way we're supposed to spell it.
  7. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    An interesting example. In AE, transfer, like offer, has the accent on the first syllable.
  8. Giordano Bruno

    Giordano Bruno Senior Member

    English, England
    Hi LanguageGuy,

    In BE, the noun "transfer" has the first syllable of stressed, but the verb has the stress on the last. Is this not the case in AE?
  9. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    No. In AE, "transfer" is generally pronounced at all times with the accent on the first syllable.

    The change to accent on the last syllable is one of countless differences I have noticed when listening to BE readers.

    Unlike some other people, I have always thought that "cancelling" is far more logical. The idea of not doubling the "l" when "ing" is added makes no sense to me. :)

  10. mplsray Senior Member

    One problem with English orthography is the lack of clues as to which syllable in a polysyllabic word receives the primary stress. The rule in question adds to written American English an indication of stress which written British English lacks.
  11. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Feeling suitably chastened at BE's inferiority, I go now to pick my winkles...
  12. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Sorry, I did not want to poke into a wasp nest. I want to thank you for your help. Also the discussions on stress helped a lot.

    Best regards
  13. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    How does the "rule" give an indication of stress?
  14. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Pardon me! Where is "here" in the US? I have never seen
    cancel spelled with two "Ls" in the US. Might I have missed a special regionalism?

  15. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    I have often seen both in the US and in various states. Webster (AE)
    gives this:
    Inflected Form(s): -celed or -celled; -cel·ing or can·cel·ling
  16. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Thanks, but you have addressed a question different from the one I asked. I did request further information about the uninflected form.
  17. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    In that case I have never seen the uninflected form with two l's. I was addressing the original question.
  18. Robbo Senior Member

    I think that proper treatment of this topic needs to:

    (a) state rules accurately (distinguishing clearly any AE/BE differences); and
    (b) provide common exceptions (again with AE/BE differences).
    (OR restate the rules in a more elaborated way incorporating "exceptions" - either way exceptions cannot/should not be ignored because over-simplification leads to trivialization.)

    The rules are obviously different between AE and BE. Further, both AE rules and BE rules in regard to the doubling of final consonants have exceptions and some of these exceptions are different between AE and BE.

    So it is inappropriate to use words like "always" without giving careful attention to the exceptions. It is, after all, the exceptions that cause most problems and are, perhaps, most interesting.

    And it's not just position of stress or what the final letter is. One must also take note of the number of syllables (word length).

    Some examples that need to be taken into account when formulating "rules" for this issue:

    rebel (n), rebellion
    rebel (v), rebelled, rebelling
    (Note the doubling of the l in both AE and BE regardless of the position of the stress.)

    reveal, revealed
    conceal, concealed
    congeal, congealed

    fit, fitter, fittest, fitted

    benefit, benefited
    prohibit, prohibited
    inhibit, inhibited

    dispel, dispelled
    spool, spooled
    kneel, kneeled
    keel, keeled
    peel, peeled
    feel, felt

    condition, conditional, conditionally (I think these are all AE+BE)
    intention, intentional, intentionally (I think these also are all AE+BE)
    addition, additional, additionally, additionality (I think these also are all AE+BE)

    toil, toiled, toiling (AE+BE)
    coil, coiled, coiling (AE+BE)
    recoil, recoiled, recoiling (AE+BE)
    foil, foiled, foiling (AE+BE)
    boil, boiled, boiling (AE+BE)

    And the DROPPING of an 'l' ( -ll ---> -l ) also needs to be accommodated somehow.
    skill (AE+BE), skilled (AE+BE), skilful (BE), skillful (AE)

    And there are many more variants to be incorporated into any so-called "rule".
  19. mplsray Senior Member

    You put the word rule in scare quotes, indicating you have doubts about it. However, it is indeed a rule from both a prescriptive and a descriptive perspective.

    As a prescriptive rule, it was part of the spelling reform put forward by Noah Webster, and I expect many publication style guides insist that the writer strictly adhere to it.

    As a descriptive rule, it is quite a strong rule in the case of polysyllabic words ending in -VCel, where V stands for a vowel and C stands for a consonant. A person learning English as a foreign language who knows the rule, could tell that traveled was pronounce TRAV-elled instead of tra-VELLED even if he had never encountered the word before. I am unaware of any exception to that rule, which is why it is a strong one.

    If a polysyllabic verb or adjective ends in -VCelled or -VCelling, that same foreigner, encountering the unfamiliar word, will not be able to predict whether the stress is on the last syllable or one of the preceding ones, but that is the case with both British and American English, since American English has the double-l variants in all cases, as far as I can determine. That does not put into question the strong rule, however, which remains in force and results in American English having an indicator of stress which British English lacks.
  20. mplsray Senior Member

    You're joking, of course. Nevertheless, I wish to plead "Not guilty" to the implied charge that I consider British English generally inferior to American English.

    I'm not even sure the reform in question resulted in much of a practical difference. As I wrote in a post in the Cultural Discussions forum last month,

  21. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    Actually, the "rule" you mentioned is very helpful, I think. I find spelling English horrendously difficult, and any "tricks" help. :)

    When words with more than one syllable end with "er" or "el", I can use these guidelines for AE:

    1) er/el are unstressed

    answered, answering
    entered, entering
    discovered, discovering
    canceled, canceling *
    traveled, traveling *

    2) er/el are stressed

    deterred, deterring
    occurred, occurring
    excelled, excelling

    Note that the spelling of "transfer" indicates BE pronunciation:

    transferred, transferring *

    Now, if we follow this "rule", it does seem to predict pronunciation for BE, and the irony is that it is AE spelling that may be a more consistent indicator of pronunciation for words ending in er/el. :)

  22. Giordano Bruno

    Giordano Bruno Senior Member

    English, England
    Thanks for the correction Robbo. In future I will try to be less dogmatic.
  23. NoodlesTheCockapoo New Member

    English - American
    Nobody mentioned the rule we were taught (in 7th grade, in Virginia). They told us (and this rule has worked for me) that the key to this puzzle is the vowel sound in the final syllable of the word. If it is a soft, or short, vowel sound, one doubles the final consonant. If it is a long (or relatively longish) vowel sound, one does not double the consonant. Though there are always exceptions to rules, for me it was only with the advent of computers, and "computer English", that I began to see this rule frequently bypassed in favor of the shorter form. Still it's a good general rule. Hence, sell and seal "level up" to selling and sealing, for example. Bet and beat evolve into betting and beating. The point of the rule seems to be to enable a reader to determine the root word when seeing a modified form. So when there are two words such as star and stare, one compares the vowels and sees that star has a relatively softer vowel sound than stare. The conjugations then become starring and staring. When you see the conjugated form you can work backwards to divine the root word.

Share This Page