Blog/Grammar tips
11 January 2024
8 min read

Cancellation or Cancelation: What's the Correct Spelling?

Cancellation or Cancelation: What's the Correct Spelling?

English, a language known for its idiosyncrasies, often leaves us puzzled by its spelling rules. One such conundrum is the use of the double 'L' in words, particularly when adding inflections. This blog aims to shed light on this intriguing aspect of English spelling, with a special focus on the word 'cancellation'.

The general rule in British English is to double the final 'L' when adding inflections, making 'cancel' transform into 'cancelled', 'cancelling', and 'cancellation'. This pattern is also prevalent in Australian, Canadian, and Irish English. However, American English prefers not to double the final 'L', leading to 'canceled' and 'canceling'. But, interestingly, 'cancellation' is more common than 'cancelation' in American English.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the origin and usage of the word 'cancellation', and discuss the correctness of 'cancellation' versus 'cancelation'. We will also explore other common words that follow the double 'L' rule and those with different British and American English spellings.

Whether you're an English language enthusiast, a writer, or someone trying to navigate the complexities of English spelling, this blog will provide valuable insights. So, let's embark on this linguistic journey and unravel the mystery of the double 'L' in English spelling.

The Rule of Double 'L' in English, American, Australian, and British Spelling

The rule of double 'L' is a fascinating topic that often sparks debate. This rule, which is primarily observed in British and Australian English, involves doubling the 'L' when adding a suffix to a word ending in 'L'. For instance, 'cancel' becomes 'cancellation'. However, American English typically prefers a single 'L', turning 'cancel' into 'cancelation'.

This rule isn't without its exceptions, though. There are instances where American English also doubles the 'L', especially when the stress falls on the final syllable of a word. For example, 'compel' becomes 'compelled' and 'compelling' in both American and British English.

The double 'L' rule also extends to other words, such as 'travel' becoming 'travelled' in British English, while remaining 'traveled' in American English. Understanding this rule and its exceptions can greatly enhance your English spelling skills, whether you're writing for an American, British, or Australian audience.

So, let's delve deeper into the intricacies of the double 'L' rule in English spelling, exploring its general application and the exceptions that make English such a dynamic and intriguing language.

General Rule

The general rule of double 'l' in English spelling is fascinating. It's a rule that's not just applicable to the word 'cancel' but to a host of other words ending with 'l' followed by a vowel. In American English, when you want to add a suffix that starts with a vowel to such words, you keep the 'l' as a single letter. So, 'cancel' becomes 'cancelation'.

However, British English has a different take on this. Here, you need to double the 'l'. So, 'cancel' becomes 'cancellation'. Interestingly, Australian English follows the British rule.

But remember, like most rules, this one, too, has exceptions. It's not a hard and fast rule that applies to every single word. There are words that don't follow this rule, and it's important to be aware of them. If you're unsure about the exceptions to this rule, you can read our blog on the doubling-up rule.

The same rule applies to 'canceling' and 'cancelling'. The single 'l' is used in American English; it’s doubled for British and Australian English. So, the next time you're unsure about whether to use one 'l' or two, remember this general rule. It's a handy guide to keep your English spelling in check.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the general rule of double 'l' in English spelling is quite straightforward, there are always exceptions that make it a bit more complex. For instance, when you transform the verb 'cancel' into the past tense, the word remains the same number of syllables, two. Whether you use two 'l's or one, then it becomes a matter of location.

  • The suffix -ation, which turns 'cancel' into a noun, adds two new syllables after the 'l'. In this case, the double 'l' acts like a bridge to these new syllables. This is one way to remember when to use the double 'l'.
  • However, it's important to note that this exception doesn't apply to all words. For example, in the case of 'travel', the double 'l' rule doesn't apply. In American English, 'travel' becomes 'traveled', while in British English, it becomes 'travelled'.
  • As with any rule, it's crucial to be cautious when applying it. There are always exceptions, and the double 'l' rule in English spelling is no different. If you're unsure about the exceptions to this rule, you can always refer to our blog on the doubling-up rule for more clarity.

Exploring the Word 'Cancellation'

Dive into the intriguing world of English spelling with our focus on the word 'cancellation'. This term, often a relief for students and a disappointment for concertgoers, is a fascinating study in the nuances of English spelling.

Origin and Usage in American and British English Spellings

The term 'cancellation' has a rich history, with its roots deeply embedded in the English language. It's a word that's been used for centuries, and its spelling has been a subject of debate, particularly between British and American English speakers. The word 'cancellation' is derived from the Latin word 'cancellatio', which means 'to make void'. It was first used in English in the 16th century and has since become a common term in everyday language.

In the early 19th century, Noah Webster, the man behind Webster's Dictionary, decided to simplify some English words. He believed certain words could do without the extra letters the British included. This led to the creation of different spellings for the same words in American and British English. For instance, 'colour' became 'color', 'honour' became 'honor', and 'rumour' became 'rumor'.

The word 'cancellation' was not spared from this simplification. In Webster's 1806 dictionary, the word cancelled was spelled as 'cancelled', but in his 1828 edition, it was spelled as 'canceled'. This change was not immediately accepted, and it wasn't until the 1980s that the single 'l' spelling became the accepted form in American English.

However, it's important to note that both spellings are correct and can be used interchangeably. There are examples of 'cancelled' in American English and 'canceled' in British English. So, if you've been using one spelling over the other, there's no need to worry. The English language is a mix of archaism, reform, error, and accident, and it's perfectly normal to use different spellings.

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Cancellation vs. Cancelation: The Preferred Spelling?

The word 'cancellation' is a common term in English, often used in various contexts. However, you might have noticed a different spelling - 'cancelation'. So, which is the correct spelling? The answer is that both are technically correct, but 'cancellation' is the more widely accepted and used spelling, regardless of whether you're writing in American or British English.

For instance, if you're booking a hotel room and see a policy for 'free cancelation', don't be alarmed. It's just a less common spelling of 'cancellation'. However, it's worth noting that 'cancellation' is the preferred spelling in most dictionaries and publications.

In American English, 'cancelation' is rarely used, and 'cancellation' is the more common spelling. This is an exception to the usual rule of single 'l' in American English and double 'l' in British English.

To illustrate, consider these examples: "Due to unforeseen circumstances, the event faced cancellation." or "The flight's cancellation left passengers stranded at the airport." In both sentences, 'cancellation' is used, which is the more widely accepted spelling.

In conclusion, while 'cancelation' is not incorrect, 'cancellation' is the more accepted and commonly used spelling. So, when in doubt, stick with 'cancellation'.

Examples of Double 'L' in English Language

The English language, with its rich history and global reach, is a melting pot of variations and exceptions.

We'll explore words like 'counsel', 'fuel', 'initial', 'label', 'marvel', 'model', 'quarrel', 'signal', and 'travel', among others. We'll also discuss the mnemonic 'London letters' to help remember the difference between the spellings.

So, whether you're an English learner or a seasoned writer, this section will provide valuable insights into the fascinating world of English spelling.

Common Words with Double 'L'

The English language is a fascinating blend of rules and exceptions, and the use of double 'L' is a prime example. Let's delve into some common words that follow this pattern.

  • In British English, words like 'counsel' become 'counselled', 'counselling', and 'counsellor'.
  • Similarly, 'fuel' transforms into 'fuelled' and 'fuelling'.
  • The word 'initial' also follows suit, becoming 'initialled' and 'initialling'.
  • 'Label' changes to 'labelled' and 'labelling'
  • 'Marvel' becomes 'marvelled', 'marvelling', and 'marvellous'.
  • The word 'model' morphs into 'modelled', 'modelling', and 'modeller'.
  • 'Quarrel' becomes 'quarrelled' and 'quarrelling'
  • 'Signal' changes to 'signalled' and 'signalling'
  • 'Travel' transforms into 'travelled', 'travelling', and 'traveller'.

These examples illustrate the prevalence of the double 'L' in British English spelling, providing a clear contrast to their American counterparts.

Remember, these are just a few examples. There are many more words that follow this pattern in British English. So, next time you're writing, keep an eye out for these double 'L' words!

Words with Different Spellings

The English language is a fascinating tapestry of words, and the double 'l' is one of its intriguing threads. It's not uncommon to find words with different spellings, especially when comparing American and British English. For instance:

  • 'Travelling' and 'traveling' are both correct, but the former is preferred in the UK, while the latter is favoured in the US.
  • Another example is 'fulfil' and 'fulfill'. The British prefer the single 'l' version, while Americans opt for the double 'l'.
  • Similarly, 'instalment' and 'installment' follow the same pattern. The British use a single 'l', while Americans double it up.
  • The word 'enrolment' also follows this trend. In British English, it's spelled with a single 'l', while in American English, it's spelled 'enrollment'.
  • The same goes for 'jewellery' and 'jewelry', where the British version has an extra 'l' and an 'e'.

These examples highlight the fascinating differences in English spelling across the globe. It's a reminder that language is fluid and ever-evolving, shaped by culture, history, and geography. So, whether you're a double 'l' fan or prefer to keep things simple with a single 'l', remember that both are correct spellings in their own right.


Understanding the intricacies of English spelling, particularly the rule of double 'L', is crucial for effective communication. The divergence between British and American English, shaped by historical influences and dictionaries, has led to variations in spellings, such as 'canceled' and 'cancelled'. These spelling differences, while seemingly minor, can significantly impact the meaning and interpretation of words.

The word 'cancellation' is a prime example of this rule. Its origin and usage, influenced by the double 'L' rule, vary between American and British English. While 'cancelation' is technically correct, 'cancellation' is more widely used, demonstrating the importance of understanding these spelling nuances.

Examples of words with double 'L' further illustrate the impact of this rule on English spelling. Words like 'travelled' and 'cancelled' in British English become 'traveled' and 'canceled' in American English, highlighting the need for awareness of these differences.

In conclusion, understanding English spelling rules, especially the double 'L' rule, is essential for accurate and effective communication. Whether you're a student, a professional, or simply someone interested in the English language, being aware of these rules can enhance your written communication and comprehension skills.

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