Focused or focussed?

The correct way to spell focused or focussed

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Focused or focussed?

Another confusing grammar situation. 

For starters, when adding the endings (i.e., final syllable) -ed and -ing to verbs, people sometimes forget that there is a double consonant beforehand. So, words like 'benefited' and 'benefitted', and 'targeted' and 'targetted' get confused.

This blog sheds light on this grammar debate. We will also try to help you remember the correct 'focused' to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

So, for starters, let's look at the definition of 'focused'. 

Definition of focused

Defining 'focused' is pretty straightforward. The word means 'giving a lot of attention to a specific thing or action'. 'Focused' is commonly used as a synonym for 'attention' and 'attentiveness'. However, it also has another meaning, 'being extra careful'. Hence, 'focused' can be an alternative for 'be on guard', 'safety', and 'take notice'. 

Here are some example sentences:

  • Her gaze focused on him. 
  • He focused on the map and held it up towards the light.
  • I closed my eyes and focused on the dream I had last night.
  • The wizard concentrated and focused on opening the portal to the other dimension.
  • The guard captain explained that I needed to be focused on my duties at all times. 
  • Mary's attention was focused on the rider approaching. 
  • Bob focused on this girl. He liked her. 

Likewise, in business English, 'focused' translates to 'giving a lot of attention and effort to a particular business area and knowing what you want to achieve. 

Example sentences: 

  • Our marketing executive believes that we should thank focused marketing for our success.
  • As a company, we should put more focused effort into strengthening the relationship with our existing customers. 
  • This is a focused organisation. We are confident we can exceed client expectations. 

Is focused and focussed the same word?

The truth is that both 'focused' and 'focussed' are correct, although 'focused' is more commonly used. Therefore, spelling focussed is absolutely in accordance with English grammar. 

But why is that?

Because in the English language, there's the doubling up rule. According to the rule, when you add a vowel suffix to the end of a word, you double up the final letter to allow room for it. Yet, this only applies to two-syllable words, where the second and final syllable appears stressed. In the case of 'focused', the 'o' part is where this stress lies. Therefore you don't have to double up unless you want to. 

Is focused or focussed used differently in British English, American English, or Australian English?

Another common question grammar enthusiasts have is whether 'focused' or 'focussed' are used differently in the various English-speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and even India.  

In American English, people say 'focused'. In fact, finding the word 'focussed' is impossible, even if both word variations are technically correct. In the UK, it's still more common to see 'focused' than 'focussed'. That said, 'focussed' is equally accepted. 

As expected, the same goes for the other English-speaking countries. For example, in Canada and Australia, 'focused' is the norm, even if 'focussed' is the correct form. So many countries stick to 'focused' because 'focussed' is outdated and old-fashioned. So, sticking to' focused' is more logical unless you're an Early Modern English or Latin enthusiast. 

Keep in mind that the norms and uses of either 'focused' or 'focussed' change. For example, today might be more common to find 'focussed' in Canada or New Zealand than in the UK, but tomorrow the situation could be completely different.

Just remember that 'focussed' is the British spelling, while 'focused' is the universal one. 

What about non-native english speakers?

Since we've cleared up the mess regarding the word's correct form of writing, let's focus on which word, 'focused' or 'focussed', you should actually use. 

People from non-English speaking countries don't have to worry too much about it. 

In fact, it doesn't really matter what form you use. If you're into more British English, perhaps using 'focussed' would be a better choice. 

'Focused' is good enough, though, because, generally speaking, it is more appropriate. In other words, nobody will question your spelling, so by using 'focused', you'll be fine. Just keep things simple and avoid overcomplicating yourself. 

Does the doubling rule apply to focuses vs. focusses and focusing vs. focussing?

The same rule applies to 'focuses' and 'focusses', and 'focusing'/'focussing'.

Why?

Because we still add a vowel suffix to the end of the word, the 's' should be doubled up, even if the second syllable isn't stressed this time. So, 'focusing' doesn't require a second 's' to be correct grammatically. 

Considering that 'focussing' has been phased out, 'focusing' is the acceptable and used variation. Although, if you want to go with 'focussing', be our guest!

15 examples of using focused and focussed

Let's look at more example sentences to see the when and how to use both 'focused' and 'focussed'. As we previously discussed, the words have the same meaning; only one of them is more old-fashioned and antiquated. Therefore, you can use whichever you like. 

Here are 15 example sentences of using 'focused' or 'focussed': 

  1. The kids weren't focused on the food. They preferred watching YouTube instead. 
  2. Jonathan is so focussed on his work. It's admirable!
  3. Stay focussed, please. 
  4. During our wedding, the photographer focussed his camera before taking our pictures.
  5. I must remain focused if I want to succeed in my studies. 
  6. Unfortunately, the pictures are not clear and focussed
  7. If you don't stay focused on the things that matter, you'll never achieve true independence. 
  8. Ronald wasn't focused, so he must pay the price now. 
  9. Stay calm and focussed on your plan. 
  10. I've not focused anywhere. I may have to go to therapy. 
  11. Being focussed is challenging. However, it can help you achieve great things. 
  12. Medical research has focused on finding a cure for cancer. 
  13. Suspicion focused on his wife. 
  14. These people make judgments based on a narrowly focused vision of the company. 
  15. The main menu focussed on grilled lobster tail. 

Alternatives to focussed and focused

If you're tired of 'focused' or 'focussed' and want to use something else, there are various synonyms. Here are some common ones:

  • Concentrated
  • Fixed
  • Immersed
  • Rapt
  • Wrapped
  • Set
  • Intent
  • Centred
  • Enfolded
  • Abstracted
  • Aimed
  • Directed
  • Observed over 

Etymology of focused and focussed

'Focused' and 'focussed' derive from the noun 'focus', which was first used in the 17th century with the meaning of 'point of convergence'. 'Focus' comes from the Latin word 'focus' (the same word!). However, during Roman times, 'focus' meant 'fireplace' or 'hearth'. In a way, it was used to also refer to someone's 'home' or 'family'. 

'Focus' was used by Johannes Kepler in 1604 in a mathematical sense for 'point of convergence', as an analogy of the burning point of a lens. To put it otherwise, Kepler used 'focus' as a consent associated with an optical sense. In 1864, the verb ‘focus' was primarily associated with photography. In 1775, 'focus' meant 'bring into focus' but in an optical sense, while in 1807, it took a figurative sense. 

As the years went by, 'focus' evolved into today's meaning, that of 'focused' or 'focussed', although it still retains its original meaning in optics and photography.

Is focused and focussed the past tense of focus?

Yes. That is true. 

The past tense of 'focus' is 'focused' or 'focussed'. When it comes to the third-person singular simple present form, 'focus' becomes 'focuses' or 'focusses'. Again, the past participle is 'focused' or 'focussed', mostly in British English, while the present participle is 'focusing' or 'focussing'.

Focused vs focused FAQs

1. Should It Be Focused or Focussed?

Both are correct forms and mean the same. 'Focussed' is the alternative form of 'focused'. 'Focussed' seems to be more common in British English, while 'focused' is the universal spelling of the word.

2. Is It Be Focused or Be Focus?

Neither. The correct answer is 'stay focused'.

3. What About the Past Tense of Focused and Focussed?

The past tense of the word 'focus' is 'focused' or 'focussed'.

4. What Is the Doubling Rule?

The doubling up rule states that when a one-syllable word ends with a final consonant and a vowel, you should double the consonant before adding the ending, like -ed and -ing. 

Conclusion

Whether you're using 'focused' or 'focussed', you're good to go. Both are correct and used in everyday life. However, if you don't want to pass as an antiquated person (unless that's your thing), you should stick to the more modern and common spelling 'focused'. 

And if you don't want to use 'focused' or 'focussed' at all, don't worry. There are hundreds of great synonyms you can use instead. So, take a moment and think, what do you prefer to use, 'focused', 'focussed', or synonyms?

Whichever word you choose to express your 'focus', know that our professional content writers, editors, and proofreaders are here to help. Just contact us to get a quote for our content writing and SEO optimization services. It's that simple!

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