This word is a student’s best friend and a concert-goer’s most dreaded nightmare. Take these two signs:
So, which spelling is correct? The answer depends on where you call home.
Canceled or cancelled is the past tense of the verb to cancel. Both spellings are correct; Americans favor canceled (one L), while cancelled (two Ls) is preferred in British English and other dialects. However, there is only one correct spelling of the word cancellation, no matter where you are. For a more in-depth explanation of spelling and the exceptions, keep reading.
Why Cancelled and Canceled are Different
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Way back when, a man named Noah Webster (of Webster’s Dictionary fame) decided that some words could get along just fine without as many letters as our friends the Brits put in them. That’s why many American spellings look different from their British counterparts: think color/colour, honor/honour, rumor/rumour.
For similar word-shortening reasons, Mr. Webster decided to chop the past tense of “cancel” down to one L. This variation first showed up in the Webster’s 1898 Dictionary, though it didn’t fully beat out the double-L spelling until about the 1980s. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s the accepted form in American English to this day.
Cancelled vs. Canceled: American Examples
And some extra American examples:
However, for any British chap, cancelled has two Ls and always will.
Cancelled vs. Canceled: British Examples
Spelling Exception: “Cancellation”
Now that we’ve traveled (and not travelled, thanks to the same rule) through the spelling rules of British vs. American English, let’s look at the exception. Yes, there’s always an exception.
Think of it like this. When you turn the verb “cancel” into past tense, the word stays the same number of syllables (two), so it’s a matter of location whether you use two L’s or one. The -ation that turns the word into a noun, on the other hand, puts a whole new syllable (in fact, two) after the L. The double-L is a like a bridge to those new syllables. At least, that’s one way to keep your Ls in line.
Now you can consider your confusion about those words canceled. Cheers!