Canceled vs Cancelled? Which One Should We Use When Writing?


canceled vs cancelled

How will you feel if your favorite artist’s concert that you were so looking forward to got cancelled all of a sudden? But more importantly, did the concert get “canceled” or was it “cancelled”? In other words, could you use the two past tense variations of “cancel” interchangeably?

“Canceled” and “cancelled” are past tense terms of “cancel”. If you are in the U.S. and write in American English, use the term with the single “l”. But if you live in the U.K. and/or prefer writing in British English, “cancelled” is the word to use. You’ll use “cancelled” in Australian English too.

The term “canceled” strangely is not as commonly used as one would expect. Keep reading to learn more about the term and its meanings, using it in various sentences, why the word hasn’t picked up as most other “Americanized” English words, and lots more. 

“Canceled/Cancelled” – Definition 

The verb “canceled” denotes the past tense of “to cancel”. “Canceled” can be spelled as “cancelled”, depending on your writing style/preference and/or the English dialect you use.

canceled spelled on golden wooden blocks

“Canceled” – A Brief History 

The English language’s American variant has shortened certain U.K. English words by usually taking a letter out of them, thereby “Americanizing” those terms. The word “cancellation” has had to undergo a similar fate when it was ever so slightly truncated to “cancelation”.

The chopped-down version of the word showed up first in 1898 in Webster’s Dictionary. However, the word completely replaced “cancelled” as the U.S. variant only during the 1980s. Though the usage of “canceled” and “cancelled” is not as rigid as “color/colour” or “rumor/rumour” in American and British English, respectively, there is no doubt it is the accepted American English form.

P.S. “Cancell” is not a valid English term. It’s purely “cancel” misspelled.

Using “Canceled/Cancelled” in Writings 

Since “canceled” and “cancelled” are the same words, they are used identically in sentences or texts. A particular term gets used over the other depending on the region the writer belongs to and/or the audience they are catering to.

In the U.S., the word is spelled with a single “L”. In countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and even Canada, “cancelled” is used in place of “canceled”. According to the Associated Press Stylebook, “canceled” must be used in U.S. publications, and “cancelled” should be employed outside of the U.S.

The words “canceled” and “cancelled” used in the sentences below, respectively indicate the context and also the intended audience of the individual texts:

  • The game between the Dodgers and the Indians was canceled due to bad weather. (American context)
  • With political and civil tensions on the rise in the country, the IOC cancelled the games. (Global context)

The aforementioned “context-based” rule applies to other inflections of “cancel”, such as “cancelers” and “cancellers”, “cancelable” and “cancellable”. Irrespective of location, and even among Americans, “cancellation” and other words such as “cancelled” and “cancellable” are fairly more widespread.

This is primarily because the various inflections of “cancel” with the single “L” spelling is relatively new and have not picked up the pace. As a result, the double “L” variations of “cancel” are more common. Many American books, magazines, and journals published between 1800 and 2000 used the “two-L” spelling.

After the 2000s, “canceled” has become a lot more acceptable than before, and you won’t be judged or subject to correction if you use the term with just the single “L”. The rule pertaining to the use of “canceled” instead of “cancelled” or “canceling” instead of “cancelling” is about paying attention to your audience and also the publication you’re writing for.

If your readers are predominantly American or the publication you’re writing for is U.S.-based, use the “single-L” variant. The AP (Associated Press) style also requires you to skip the “double-L” versions.

“Cancellation” and Its Consonants 

Kindly note, the above spelling conventions do not apply to the term “cancellation”. Compared to “canceled”, “cancellation” incorporates two “L’s” because in the former, adding “-ed” doesn’t add another syllable to the word.

However, with “cancellation”, there are a couple of syllables, which warrants the use of double “L’s”. In other words, “cancel” and “-lation” are two individual units of pronunciation. The two “L’s” in “cancellation” function as a bridge between the two syllables in the word.

Generally, in American English, verbs with two consonants and when immediately preceded by short vowels drop their other consonant. In the case of “cancellation”, unlike “canceled” and “cancelling”, the rule doesn’t apply because it’s a noun and not a verb. Another reason for “cancellation” keeping the two “L’s” in both English dialects is it has its roots in “cancellatio”, a Latin term that means “fixing boundaries”.

Though “cancelation” is a valid English term, it could be considered as the misspelling of “cancellation” – both outside the U.S. and even within, at times.

Here are a few sentences using the word “cancellation”:

  • The club experienced successive cancellations due to financial troubles.
  • The press release confirmed the show’s rumored cancellation.
  • Increasing costs were one of the factors in the project’s cancellation.
  • The tournament’s cancellation was made official just a week before the event’s start date.
  • The cancellation rates soared due to no sense of obligation.

Such employing of two letters in the same word to stress the syllable attaching to the suffix can be seen with a few other word pairs. “Remit” and “remitting”, “commit” and “committing” are example terms. 

Similar is the case with certain words with the same spellings in both U.S. and British English, despite there being the scope to cut out a letter in the former version of the language. Such “double-L” usage in U.S. English works because the stress is on the final or second syllable in particular words. 

As a result, “compel” becomes “compelled” and not “compeled”, and “rebel” transforms to “rebelled” and “rebelling” and not “rebeled” and “rebeling”, respectively.

cacelled stamped on paper

Example Sentences with the Word “Canceled/Cancelled” 

As mentioned above, the words “canceled” and “cancelled” can be interchangeably used. In the following sentences, therefore, “canceled” can be replaced with “cancelled”:

  • The particular route had the highest number of canceled flights last year.
  • My favorite television show has been canceled.
  • We canceled the meeting as important members of the board were not available.
  • The program had to be canceled due to her sudden visit.
  • The airlines canceled 100 flights during the weekend due to bad weather.
  • The show won’t be canceled after its sixth season, as confirmed by the producer.
  • The school’s principal canceled cotton candy sales on campus as the sugar in it was found to cause students’ mental health issues.
  • Have a backup plan in place when you’re flying, as your flight could get canceled or delayed at any time.
  • Contrary to general belief, certain contracts could be canceled even after they’ve been duly authorized.
  • Her appointment was canceled as the psychiatrist had to attend an important conference.
  • The peace initiative program had to be canceled due to some unavoidable circumstances.
  • Though scores of flights were canceled, the airport was not shut down.
  • The meeting had to be canceled due to the lack of participants.

The term “cancelled” is highly likely to be used in place of “canceled” in texts written by British authors or copies published on U.K. websites. If the discussion has anything to do with the Beatles, the royal family or the Queen, or anything Britain-related, “cancelled” is used.

Make sure you do not use the two terms interchangeably in the same document. If you’re using “canceled”, for instance, stick to it throughout your copy.

The same “interchangeability” rules that apply to “canceled” and “cancelled” shall work for “canceling” and “cancelling” too. Here are a few terms using the term “canceling”:

  • Canceling a show is not that straightforward as there are multiple aspects to consider and various parties at stake.
  • Are they postponing the flight or canceling it altogether?
  • The noise is quite useful at canceling the human-produced higher frequency noise.
  • By canceling the show, fans and critics believed that the producers jumped the gun.

To illustrate “cancel” and “cancellation” are one of the few outliers between U.S. and British English, here are a few words that are spelled differently in the two dialects: 

  • Counsel: Counseled, counselor, counseling (U.S.); counselled, counsellor, counselling (U.K.).
  • Fuel: Fueled, fueling (U.S.); fuelled, fuelling (U.K.).
  • Label: Labeled, labeling (U.S.); labelled, labelling (U.K.)

Similar are the inflections in the two dialects with the words “model”, “marvel”, “quarrel”, “signal”, “travel”, etc.

Conclusion 

girl holds up UK and US flags

Both “canceled” and “cancelled” are valid English terms but belong to different dialects. By using “canceled” instead of “cancelled”, or vice-versa, in your texts is not wrong. However, the contexts in which you use the word variant matters.

Though American and British English have their few, minor spelling differences, some of those words could be shared. In other words, “cancelled” may look out of place in copies written in U.S. English, but “cancellation” with the double-L would be fine, for reasons mentioned above.

According to certain online dictionaries, the word “cancelation” with the single “L” is not an option or alternate word.

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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