With all of the closings due to last week's polar vortex, we have assisted clients with canceling events. It was during this process that the discussion came up of using one or two "l's" in the word cancelling.
We all know that the English language is unique and has many challenging word variations, but some of these variations are uniquely American. There are several areas in which American and British spelling is different. The differences often come about because British English has generally kept the spelling of words it has absorbed from other languages (like French), while American English has varied the spelling to reflect the way that the words sound when spoken. Another reason for the variation in spelling is that Americans tend to simplify and shorten some words. An easy way to remember these two words (canceled and cancelled) is that the shorter spelling is American (the same with favor and favour). However, we Americans do agree with our British counterparts in the spelling of the word cancellation. That word is spelled the same here and across the pond.
As with words like gray (American) and grey (British), both spellings are acceptable in that, canceled and cancelled are both past tenses of the verb cancel. To cancel is to annul or invalidate; to decide or announce that planned or scheduled event will not take place.
For those who are sure they were taught to use two "l’s," in spelling cancelled, it might make you feel better to know that canceled only became the dominant word spelling within the last 30-40 years, as the two began to diverge around 1980.
If you depend on AP style as we do, the following is from our friends at the Associated Press.
#APStyle tip: It's cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation.