the demise of ize
I find people comment to say they’re surprised that I use American -ize endings in my writing (given I’m British – and an editor to boot). I explain that it’s the UK system I’m using.
I was taught to write using the Oxford rules -ize ending at school. (Besides, I have a biased reason for liking the letter Z because of my name!) Not only that, but the -ize spelling is closer to the way we say such words. Over the last decade or two, I’ve observed the -ise ending (from French) has become more popular in British English. As a business we’ve adapted our use of the suffix for the majority of UK clients (and for those elsewhere wanting to localize their content for the UK). It is perhaps seen as a more “British” way of writing than the older -ize (from Greek via Latin), which can be mistaken for an Americanism. Which is intriguing, given our world is leaning towards internationalization, and products and services are becoming ever more global so a system that works across Englishes would seem the most logical. But language isn’t under our control, and the increased preference for -ise in UK English copy speaks volumes to how important it is that content feels local, for locals.
is british english ise or ize?
There are three systems in English for the use of the suffix -ize or -ise. In UK English, we have two valid systems: -ize (Oxford spelling) or -ise in words such as realize/realise and standardize/standardise. The use of either system is a style choice, and both systems are correct, so long as they’re used consistently. In US English it’s -ize only.
So, perhaps using -ise is an easier way for Brits to do it, as we don’t have to remember the exceptions to the rule? Use the right system for your target audience and, so long as you stick to that system consistently in one piece of writing, it’s “correct” (we use that term carefully with regard to language, see Why is Language so Important?).
Whichever system is used, none is wrong. We do find, however, that if we’re localizing US text to UK English, the client (from anywhere in the world) requires the -ise system to be implemented. On the other hand, if international English is desired, we would recommend using the UK -ize endings since they suit both UK and US spellings in the majority of cases, and it is these two varieties of English that have spread across the world.
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