How do you spell color? You’ll see other writers do it two ways—the one we’ve already used in this paragraph, and another one—colour. Neither of the spellings is wrong, and they both mean exactly the same thing. Still, the two spellings are slightly different, so there has to be something to it, right? Let’s see.
- When choosing between color and colour, keep in mind that both spellings are correct.
- The shorter one, color, is the preferred spelling in the United States.
- The rest of the English-speaking world uses the longer form, colour.
Difference Between Color and Colour
You might have noticed that there are other words with the same duality of spelling—words like “honor,” “traveling,” “favorite,” and the past tense of the verb “spell.” These variations in spelling exist because of differences between American English and British English. Color is the spelling used in the United States. Colour is used in other English-speaking countries.
The word color has its roots (unsurprisingly) in the Latin word color. It entered Middle English through the Anglo-Norman colur, which was a version of the Old French colour. The current difference in spelling between the American and British variants is credited to (or occasionally blamed on) Noah Webster, the American lexicographer. Seeking to establish American independence and identity in language, Webster implemented a number of spelling reforms in A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, which he published in 1806.
Color or Colour—Which Spelling Should You Use?
There are a couple of ways you can choose which spelling to use. You can, for example, choose the spelling that’s prevalent in the country you’re from—if you’re an American, use color. If you’re from any of the Commonwealth countries, use colour. If English is not your first language, use the spelling you were taught.
You can also choose to conform to the spelling that’s preferred by your audience. If you’re writing for Americans, use the spelling they prefer. If you’re writing something for Brits, Australians, or Canadians, use the spelling they prefer.
If you’re still not sure which to choose, or if you’re writing for an international audience, the best thing to do is choose one of the spellings and stick with it. In other words, choose consistency.