Canceled or Cancelled – How to Use Each Correctly
What is the Difference Between Canceled and Cancelled?
Canceled and cancelled are alternate spellings of the same word.
Canceled is the simple past form of the verb cancel. Its primary meaning is to decide a scheduled event will not occur. The spelling with a single l is more common in American English.
- The coach canceled soccer practice because of the bad weather.
Cancelled is exactly the same as canceled, but the spelling with the double l is more common in British English.
- The boss cancelled the meeting because she came down with the flu.
Now, let’s go over the specific ways each of these spellings are used.
Using Canceled in a Sentence
When to use canceled: Canceled is the past simple and past participle form of the verb cancel. It can mean revoke, call off, invalidate, neutralize, or to close (in the sense of an account).
The spelling with one l is the preferred American spelling.
- The man canceled his gym membership in an effort to save money.
- The couple canceled their wedding when they learned of each others’ infidelities.
When used in the sense of neutralize, cancel often appears as the phrasal verb cancel out.
- The mean girl seemed to believe that her compliment canceled out her insult.
- The religious murderer hoped that his good deeds canceled out his evil ones.
Cancel has Latin roots, and originally meant to cross out.
Using Cancelled in a Sentence
When to use cancelled: Cancelled is an alternate spelling of canceled, and, therefore, has the same pronunciation, meaning, and usage. The only difference is that the double l spelling is more common in British English.
- That American band has cancelled all of its concerts here in Britain!
- The Queen of England cancelled her scheduled appearance at the public event due to concerns about riots.
Most English speaking countries, with the exception of America, will follow the British English spelling.
Remembering Canceled vs. Cancelled
One way to remember which spelling is preferred in American English versus British English is to think of the history behind each.
Americans wanted independence from Britain, and because of that, they wanted to show that they were culturally different as well. One way Americans tried to show these differences was through spelling. Americans tried to simplify spelling by removing letters that they thought were unnecessary.
Therefore, when trying to remember which spelling is the American spelling, look for the word with fewer letters.
- Nationwide, airlines had grounded 1,675 flights as of 1 p.m. ET Sunday, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. The bulk of those came in Houston and at other Texas airports, many preemptively canceled sometime on Saturday. –USA Today
- A Florida hospital’s foundation said Thursday that it had canceled plans to hold a fundraiser luncheon at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club this November, becoming the 18th charity to cut ties with the club after Trump’s comments on the violent protests in Charlottesville. –Washington Post
- The 24th Annual TransCanada Theater District Open House, scheduled for this Sunday, Aug. 27, has been cancelled due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Harvey. –Houston Chronicle
- Responding to a petition calling for a Republican Party central committee vote to opt out of the open primary, Wadhams said, “Let there be no mistake about it: If the primary is cancelled and nominations are left to few thousand activists…Republicans will pay politically.” –Denver Post
Quiz: Cancelled vs. Canceled
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either cancelled or canceled, in the correct form.
- The football match here in London has been ______________ until further notice due to a strike amongst the players.
- Organizers ______________ the music festival here in San Diego due to inclement weather.
- Many residents here in Sydney have _________________ their accounts in protest against the bank.
- The Loch Ness viewing event here in Scotland was ________________ at the last minute due to the failure to obtain a permit.
- Authorities here in Washington D.C. ____________________ a number of permits that are now illegal.
Should I use canceled or canceled? Although both words are correct and have the same meaning, you should still use the spelling preferred by the audience you are writing for.
- Canceled is the preferred American English spelling.
- Cancelled is the preferred British English spelling.
Using the spelling preferred by your audience will help them understand your writing more easily. It will also help you conform to the standards of the organizations you are involved with, such as your school or workplace.