Canceled vs. Cancelled (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use canceled vs. cancelled with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.
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Learn when to use canceled vs. cancelled with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

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Before we get too far down the rabbit hole this week, I just want to make one thing perfectly clear: There is only one way to spell cancel, and that's with one "l." However, using cancel in the past tense gets a bit more complicated...mainly by geography.

(How to Map Your Fantasy World.)

Beyond that, let's define the word cancel, which is a verb that can mean a few things. Cancel can mean to destroy or offset the force or validity of something else. Another meaning for cancel is to call off an event without the expectation of rescheduling. It's also used in mathematics to remove equal parts on both sides of an equation. But again, how you cancel something in the past tense is different depending upon where you do it.

So break out your maps! We're going to need them where we're going.

Canceled vs. Cancelled

Canceled is the preferred spelling of the past tense of cancel in the United States.

Cancelled is the preferred spelling of the past tense of cancel everywhere else. Okay, so maybe you don't need a map to know whether you're in the United States or somewhere else.

Make sense?

Let's go through a few examples:

Correct in the United States: With a line of severe thunderstorms in the area, he canceled the soccer match.
Incorrect everywhere else: With a line of severe thunderstorms in the area, he canceled the soccer match.

Correct everywhere else: She cancelled the play after failing to sell any advance tickets.
Incorrect in the United States: She cancelled the play after failing to sell any advance tickets.

In case you're wondering, canceling and cancelling run along the same rules with the United States preferring one l and everywhere else two l's. But, of course, English is funny, because the word cancellation uses two l's regardless of where you're using it, kind of like the one l used for cancel.

So maybe all these one and two l variants cancel each other out. Regardless, one way to remember which version to use is this: Places that refer to that one black and white ball game as soccer prefer to use one l, while the places that refer to it as football prefer to use two l's.

Learn more in the online course, Grammar and Mechanics, from Writer’s Digest University:

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