Program vs. Programme

By Ali Hale

One of our readers wrote to ask if we could clarify the difference between program and programme.

The Noun: Program or Programme?

The basic difference is between different languages:

  • American English always uses program
  • British English uses programme unless referring to computers
  • Australian English recommends program for official usage, but programme is still in common use.

The word “program” was predominant in the UK until the 19th century, when the spelling “programme” became more common — largely as a result of influence from French, which has the same word “programme”.

So, if you’re writing in British English (either as part of an examination, if you’re studying English, or for a British publication), here’s some examples of how to use programme and program correctly:

  • We’re still drawing up the programme for the concert.
  • This computer program won’t run on my PC.
  • I missed my favourite television programme last night.

The Verb: To Program, Programmed, Programming

The word program is also a verb, as in “I’ll program the computer today.” In this case, both American and British English use “to program”.

These forms are also valid in American English:

  • programed
  • programing

But the Oxford English Dictionary recommends the double-m instead, which is in far more widespread usage:

  • programmed
  • programming

If in doubt, and writing for a publication, check whether or not they have a style guide or a rule on which form of the verb to use. When you’re writing for yourself, just make sure you’re consistent.

YouTube video: Program vs. Programme

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112 Responses to “Program vs. Programme”

  • JuwBagel

    I don’t believe that one would say, “I’ll program the computer today.” One doesn’t program computers, see? He might program for a computer, or use a program on one, but one doesn’t simply program up a computer….

    While grammatically correct, it doesn’t make much sense.

  • Jensita

    I’m not sure if I agree completely. It’s true you don’t “program up a computer”, but you can certainly “program a computer to do something.”

    It’s similar to the way you can program a modern coffee maker to automatically start the coffee making process at 8:30am, or program a phone system to send callers to different departments depending on the option selected.

    Granted, these last two examples are not desktops, but they are computers nonetheless.

  • onuigbo victoria

    i enjoy reading this please keep it on thanks

  • anubhav biswas

    I enjoy reading this please keep it on . I there are some valuable words or tips which can improve my English please send it to me to my email address .

  • shakirah

    I came across this dilemma earlier as i was helping a friend to spruce up her presentation slides. I noticed that whenever I used programmes i.e. the plural of programme..I have a jagged line underneath it, meaning that it’s a spelling error. But if I were to use programs no such error is highlighted. Is there a larger difference than the mere fact that one is British and the other American…I wonder

  • Sarah


    You certainly can ‘program a computer’. This is when you write or edit the code that all operations run from; and is what computer programmers do all day!

    In UK English, you wouldn’t however ‘program for a computer’, this makes it sound like you are employed by the computer to program, and I’ve never heard anyone say ‘program-up’ a computer.

    I wouldn’t however like to say for sure that the above phrases are incorrect for the US – is that where you learnt your English JuwBagel?

  • Michael

    This has been debate for quite a while… I live in a British ruled country and I have always preferred to use Programme unless it is computer related, then I use Program.

  • david

    internship program or internship programme, which one is correct?

  • david

    internship program or internship programme, which one is correct?

  • Jay

    David, I would say Internship Programme but then my education was British. The American spelling would be Program but as the definition at the top of this page rightly says, program in British English (or English English) is a term used for computers.

  • david

    Thanks, Jay! 🙂

  • weynand

    I’m Dutch and my education was “the British” way. Currently, I’m working for an international company and my job title is “Program Manager”. I don’t program computers, but manage ICT programmes (very large projects). Reading all your comments I would say I am a “Programme Manager”?!

  • Jay

    I’m afraid so Weynand. Besides, as you said you ‘don’t program computers, but manage ICT programmes’ QED 🙂

    Just google your job title. You’ll find ample links to both… and so the debate goes on. Either way, you know what your job is so don’t let it bother you too much.

  • Stephen

    I always thought that programme was used for courses, such as ‘Leadership Programme’, and that program was used for such things as ‘TV program’ or ‘computer program’. I guess I’ll just have to keep searching for answers.

  • Rosa

    This is so interesting, how muchthe language has been affected by technology. Words derived from or used in computer terminolgy have quickly become verbs and every day word and the meaning can vary many times. Regarding Program, I think we should adhere to the Australian English recommendations. Cheers.

  • Mary

    I can’t think of any reason program would be used as a verb other than in relation to computers so I always stick to the rule that is is programme, unless reated to a computer (verb or noun).

  • Pat Buoncristiani

    If you are writing tips on correct usage you really should not be caught writing “here’s some examples”. The examples are plural and hence it should be “here ARE some examples”. Tut, tut.

  • Connor

    Here in Canada I believe most spell it programme as well, unless of course it is computer related.

  • Rob describe the noun “program” as:

    a. A listing of the order of events and other pertinent information for a public presentation.
    b. The presentation itself: a program of piano pieces.
    2. A scheduled radio or television show.
    3. An ordered list of events to take place or procedures to be followed; a schedule: a program of physical therapy for a convalescent.
    4. A system of services, opportunities, or projects, usually designed to meet a social need: “Working parents rely on the center’s after-school latchkey program” (New York Times).
    a. A course of academic study; a curriculum.
    b. A plan or system of academic and related or ancillary activities: a work-study program.
    c. A plan or system of nonacademic extracurricular activities: the football program.
    6. A set of coded instructions that enables a machine, especially a computer, to perform a desired sequence of operations.
    7. An instruction sequence in programmed instruction.

    I would definitely spell definitions 1 and 2 “programme,” 3, 4, and 5 “programme” or “program” (I’ll pick one eventually!), and 6 and 7 would definitely be spelt “program” as with the verb form of “program.”

  • Guest 1

    I am English and dont really care that americans have changed the spelling of many words. Thats fair enough. But one thing that has really annoyed me in this post is reading that americans would spell Programming “Programing” What??? That would be pronounced PRO-GRAY-MING. Its one thing to change the spelling of a word but your changing an entire rule!!! Allow me to give a few examples….

    If you BAN someone are they Baned??? NO! BaNNed. double N
    If you are a bum are you Buming around??? NO! BuMMing around!
    If you get a tan bathing are you Taning Yourself?? NO! Tanning……

    The list goes on. If a vowel comes before the last letter then you must add the extra letter or you change the sound.

    Banned spelt BANED would be pronounced BAYNED.
    Bumming spelt BUMING would be pronounced BOOMING.
    Tanning spelt TANING would be pronounced TAYNING.


    Americans you use this rule for every other example so why just change an entire rule for 1 word. If im wrong and you have a different rule please correct me.
    AMERICA the rest of the world already thinks your stupid…Stop making it so easy for us to dislike you. I want to like you… You just dont make it easy sometimes.

  • umber

    Guest 1, I agree about the need for consistency and rule observance. So what’s the British affectation with “sceptical”? In the US, that could only be related to a sewage tank.

  • umber

    As for American English, the word is “program”. The end. “Programme” is a Frech word. A French word for program. The British are just generally fond of extra letters thrown in! Our extrae lettres throughn inne.

  • michael

    Guest 1, it’s spelt “you’re” not “your”.

  • jensita

    Oh michael, you just made my day.

  • Heather

    Guest 1, here in the U.S., most people actually spell it programming. If I type the word into a word processing document as “programing”, it will show up as incorrectly spelled. That being said, I believe you are somewhat confused about the rules regarding the addition of an extra consonant before the suffix -ing. You see, this is only the case if the root word is one syllable, like all of your examples: ban, bum, and tan. Because program has two syllables, the rule becomes a bit more complicated. I learned in 8th grade English grammar class that with two or more syllable words, you only double the consonant if the last syllable is accented. So, for example, the word traveling does not have two l’s because that would imply that it’s pronounced traVELLing. By the way, we pronounce it TRAH-vull-ing as opposed to TRAH-veel-ing like you might guess. Using this logic, the word program should indeed NOT have a doubled m, because at least in the U.S., we pronounce it PROgramming, not proGRAMMing. Nonetheless, we in the U.S. spell it the same way you do: programming, which means it must be considered an exception to the rule. I have no idea why and it irks me, but I don’t blame it on “stupid Americans.”
    Not that I give a rat’s ass if you “like” me or not or anyone else in “America” (I presume you mean the U.S., not Canada or Mexico), but I do hope this clarifies the rule, because you did ask to be corrected.

  • Mark T

    Classic. The sad thing is I actually read through the lot. Next thing we’ll be discussing apostrophe placement.
    P.S. In New Zealand know one really knows. There’s not a lot of consistency. I am a Programme Manager and manage a team whose methodology is based on the project management Institutes PMBOK guidance. That being a US standard notes Program as a knowledge area, vice Programme. However, in New Zrealand we are more colonially based (British) than perhaps Australia (Program). However, it is foretold that sooner or later be will infact be subsumed under the Commonwealth (of Australia).

  • Simon

    Because Programme itself is a derivation from the French word, I (and fully paid up Brit) actually agree with my American counterparts that this should be PROGRAM – which was the original word prior to the adoption of the French variant.

  • Judy

    Wow! I am a (Western) Canadian and I had never seen the word “programme” before. I’m a professional accountant for a non-profit that has multiple “programs” and our auditor produced the financial statements using the word “programme” throughout. I asked him why he was spelling it in French. He informed me it was the British version. I thought I would Google it up and see what the correct Canadian version was. After reading through all these emails I’m still not sure. Maybe we Western Canadians have adopted the US version. If so it was a long time ago!

  • jasmine

    Reading all the comments really amazed and confused me. I had to check also in the google the difference between program and programme. I thought I was just absent when our english teachers taught the correct usage of the two words because I don’t remember using a word “programme” when I was schooling. Oh! I thought the “programme” is the verb of “program”. But then, why I seldom see “programme” just always “program”?
    Anyway, thanks to your responses because in one way or another I learned.

  • Gert

    I would like to subscribe, but I don’t see the costs of the subscription anywhere..can you highlight that for me please, thanks.

  • Albert D.

    I’m from southwestern Ontario, Canada, and I had never even heard of the spelling “programme” until a year or so ago. (I was taught in school and have always seen it spelt “program.”) But, then again, I often see colour spelt minus the “u” and centre spelt with an “er” around here, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised!

  • Ashley Pomeroy

    “So, if you’re writing in British English (either as part of an examination, if you’re studying English, or for a British publication)…”

    This almost implies that actual British people – who use British English because they are British – don’t exist.

    Which is not the case; I know several British people, and I am one. Of them. I have always thought of programme in the posh French restaurant menu sense, and program in the modern computer sense.

    Of course nowadays few people actually program a computer. That dates from the days when you literally had to write a short program in order to do anything with a computer, even if it was just e.g. LOAD “Manic Miner”. People still write code, but it’s “writing” or “developing” rather than programming.

  • Peter

    I learned in 8th grade English grammar class that with two or more syllable words, you only double the consonant if the last syllable is accented. So, for example, the word traveling does not have two l’s because that would imply that it’s pronounced traVELLing.

    But in proper English it does have two ‘l’s, and the US form looks like it should be pronounced “traVELing” (not “traVEELing”). I’ve never heard or read anyone trying to explicitly state the rule for this, but there clearly is a rule which I’ve just absorbed by osmosis, which the US spelling breaks.

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  • Sophiex

    Enthralling debate! Does anyone have a JPEG of a yawn?

  • Scotsman

    Interesting and entertaining reading. I have become so confused as to when/whether to use “program” or “programme” that I generally look up a thesaurus to try to avoid using either spelling!

    I do love though, when reading all these comments from people, so adamant about grammatical correctness this way or that, that they forget the basic usages of language such as “your” or “you’re”, “there” and “their”, etc. and at other times just blatantly misspell words such as “dont” (rather than “don’t), and ignoring through likely arrogance the capitalisation (note the “s” not a “z”) of personal nationality, i.e. “American”.

    On a point of grammar, does the comma/full stop go inside the quotation marks (whatever their correct linguistic name is), or outside as I have written above? (I am constantly being corrected regardless of which way I write it…)

    Also, with the discussion on doubling consonants: I have always thought of myself on my travels as a traveller, regardless of where I’ve been traveling. I think I maybe just break/create my own rules…

  • Nick


    I would point out that Programme entered British English after Canada and the US had been established, and so it is not surprising that it is spelt in the old fashioned way in North America. The antipodean situation is more confused of course, having been more influenced during the 19th century (as the colonisation only began in the late 18th) and so it is the American Hegemony of the late 20th century that is bringing influence to bear —-

    Excuse my spelling and grammatical errors – as the French say

    l’orthographe est la science des Anes –

  • Hajime


    Full stops always go outside the quotation mark unless you’ve included it in your quote (i.e. copied and pasted). I used to get confused about this too. XD Year 9 English teacher was awesome, however, so she set it right for me.

    On the topic of program/programme, as an Australian, I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed anyone use “programme”… I’d say this “official use” status has set in rather quickly then. XD

    Oh, by the way, on the doubling of consonants, I spell it “travelling” and “programming”, so stick that spelling up your arse. 😛

  • Mikey

    What do you mean British English? How Rude!

    You mean English English. I am English, from England as it is a country, and I speak English which is where the English language orginated from.

    Britain consists of 3 countries, England, Scotland and Wales, which all together is a nation not a country. The United Kingdom consists of Britain, the British Isles and Northern Island. And each country has different versions of English, with Wales and Scotland also having their own native languages.
    Oxford is in England, therefore its an English dictionary, not a British Dictionary (as it does not include Welch or Scottish words).

    So it’s not British English.

    It’s English!

    Any other form is based on our colonial children unable to spell correctly

  • victoria gan

    What’s the meaning of American , British and Australia English ? Straigt to the point , are program and programme the same words ? And which word is more suitale to use internationally?

  • Michael

    Oh Mikey.

    Like it or not, English doesn’t belong to the English alone anymore; it’s a lingua franca with a glorious variety of dynamic forms around the world. ‘British English’ is the term used by the Oxford and countless dictionaries of English for the standard form that coexists with American English. There is no need to be offended, nor—dare I say it—so imperialist. British English is owned and operated by the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Manx and Cornish; not to mention Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Nigerians, Kenyans, Indians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, etc., etc. And each of these has its local variant, of which it can be rightly proud. Some of these mix in some American standard.

    The Americans, by the way, deserve our gratitude for expanding and colouring and carrying the language forward into the world. Many of the words used by Englishmen and women today have their home in the United States, e.g. ‘bulldozer’, ‘airport’, ‘ice cream’, etc. The various streams are all from the same river, and all lead to the same sea. Revel in it!

  • MacDonald_Canada

    As a Canadian, it seems as though our colonial “masters” do not know about their very own sovereign state! The UK does not consist of the British Isles – the Republic of Ireland is not part of the UK but is part of the British Isles. The UK is Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    Also, I think it should be said, that there are many reasons for the lexis and orthography of other forms of English being different which do not include your colonial “subjects” not being able to spell correctly.
    It is indeed British English – British is the demonym for the UK and the spellings used are uniform throughout the UK thus making it the British form of the language.

  • Lizzie

    I enjoyed your comment at the end of all this bickering greatly; it was like a breath of fresh air! I agree we should stop debating whose version of English is ‘the right one’ and embrace change. I am English and hear a lot of complaints about Americans and how they speak English but I feel people are quick to criticise others with no thought that language should be allowed to be dynamic. After all we don’t speak at all like Shakespeare & his contemporaries, but nobody bleats about that.

  • Michael

    @Victoria gan:

    ‘program’ is standard in American English, for all uses.

    ‘programme’ is standard British English for all uses except those relating to computers.

    Australians tend to use ‘program’, but ‘programme’ is perfectly acceptable. I’m Australian and I prefer ‘programme’.

    Both British and American English are used internationally, though the latter is more common. The UN and many other international institutions use British English. If you work in the Commonwealth of Nations you can use ‘programme’.

  • Albert D.


    The exception to the Commonwealth is in Canada, where it is always (as far as I’ve seen it) “program.”

  • Michael

    @Albert D. I defer to your local knowledge, and that ‘program’ prevails, though I did see it spelt ‘programme’ whilst I was in your fair land. I understand, moreover, that the Canadian Oxford Dictionary makes no distinction between ‘-gram’ and ‘-gramme’, and that at least some government departments prefer the latter.

    To avoid confusing folks, I think the point to make is that ‘programme’ is generally acceptable in Commonwealth countries and preferred in some, but completely unacceptable in the United States.

  • Albert D.

    @ Michael

    Fair enough. Although I, as a Canadian, find the “-gramme” ending rather jarring. It seems pompous and archaic to me, but then this is just my opinion. (I do think that many here would feel the same, though.)

    As a side, I just visited the homepage of my university (, and see they use the -“gram” spelling. Perhaps this indicates little, but it’s interesting to note.

  • Michael

    @Albert D. I think you’re point is well made: ‘programme’ is far less common in Canadian English, and a lot of Australians would feel the same way you do about it. I find ‘program’ as dry and dull as you find it ‘pompous’, so I choose ‘programme’.

    But, if we’re trying to help our friends whose first language isn’t English, then I suspect it’s safe to say that they can legitimately use either spelling in your country and mine. It may raise eyebrows, and it may not be a particular house’s style (e.g. Uni. of Toronto), but it’s not ‘incorrect’.

    By the way, I quick google turned this up

    Another way of putting this is that we have options, whilst our American friends do not. (He says, tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

    Now then, about Canadians’ use of ‘tire’ for ‘tyre’… 😉

  • Albert D.


    Well said, sir.

    In regard to your last comment, a lot of the automotive terms here actually are the same as in the U.S. Our cars have hoods and trunks, not bonnets or boots. We spell the edge of the sidewalk “curb,” not “kerb.” And some Canadians drive pickup trucks, not utes (the Australian and New Zealand term, I understand).

    As you can see, we also punctuate a bit differently than you do with double-apostrophes almost always following the comma or period. As well, we use suffixes like “-ize” and “-yze” rather than “-ise” and “-yse.” It’s funny how much of a mishmash Canadian English is.

    Anyway, I digress. I blame my fatigue. Which reminds me: I should get some sleep!

  • Michael

    Yes, it’s a long way past your bed time young man!

    I learnt the Canadian meaning of ‘truck’ the hard way; got hit by one of the buggers in Edmonton! God bless the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia!

    By the way, ‘-ize’ is an accepted (though less common) variant in British and Australian English, and Oxford’s preferred spelling. ‘-yze’ is pure Yankee. We often use double quotes too.

    All English is a mish-mash old mate—a wonderfully horrendous mish-mash!

    Carry on.

  • Guest

    Guest1, from England, makes valid points about such word usage as programing vs. programming. I admit his/her comments rather fell apart for me when he used “your” instead of “you’re” further down as follows. His sentence is: “AMERICA the rest of the world already thinks your stupid.” He is trying to say “you are” and not the possessive. I believe this is true in England as well.

    (lol I am American born and bred, and I was merely amused by Guest 1’s partisanship for his/her country. In fact, my own loyalty to America is for its accomplishments, but that doesn’t mean I would negate our British heritage. And certainly today they are far better writers (of published work, not necessarily the person on the street 😉 ). Their overall educational system is, in my rarely humble opinion, superior to ours.

    I was taught to use “programming” in elementary school myself, and like it. And yes, the “rule” here is to double the consonent when adding the participle endings (-ed, -ing) if the accent is on the last syllable and is a consonant, but actually, the rule ALSO points out doubling the last letter if the word ends in a consonant rather than a vowel, regardless of the syllable emphasis.

    I don’t think Guest 1 is rude; there will always be, I think, competition of a family sort among countrys formerly a part of the British Empire and whose own language is English.

  • Guest

    ooops I myself made a stupid mistake. The plural of “country” is “countries.” Writing comments will show flaws like this… self-editing is the toughest aspect of writing.

  • Guest

    P.S. A case in point is the word, “bus.” I am uncomfortable with “busses,” (it is rather like the archaic verb, “to buss,” meaning to kiss)… so I arbitrarily write “buses” when I mean several of them.

  • Guest

    Jensita from a couple of years ago did a nice job of explaining the use of “program” as a verb, and makes sense. But, sadly, she committed, in my training, a mortal sin… she split her infinitive…

    She says: “to automatically start the coffee making process…” How much better to have written, “to start the automatic coffee-making process.” And, yes, a hyphen does belong between “coffee” and “making.”

    Infinitives in all vernaculars of English are the root of the verb. The word “to” (itself of many different uses, including as a preposition; context prevails) is inextricably connected to the root word and no adverb should ever be inserted between them.

    An example might be from the grand-daddy of all Romance Languages which is Latin (such as languages like French, Italian, Spanish, and, yes, English, although English is liberally sprinkled with Germanic forms going as far back as the Anglo-Saxon era). The verb “amare” in Latin is also the basis of single words in the other Romance Languages. In English it is “to love.” Treat it as a single word, also.

    English appears to be an exception with the particle “to” signaling the infinitive it adjoins. It isn’t an exception in any vernacular of English. “To be,” “to love,” “to fight,” and all the others should never be split. To do so advertises inadequate education in grammar. In actuality, I believe it destroys the cadence of our language, which is a pity.

  • Guest

    Hijime…you say: “Full stops always go outside the quotation mark unless you’ve included it in your quote (i.e. copied and pasted). ”

    If you are still reading this thread, and if you define a period as a “full stop” you are incorrect.

    The period always is placed inside the quotation mark. No exceptions. Now for the reason. Although an exlamation or question mark following your personal use of a word or phrase in quotation marks can go outside your quotes, a period, or, for that matter a comma, never does.

    Why? It comes from type-setting tradition. If those minuscule symbols were put outside the heavier fonts of quotation marks they were invariably lost to the manuscript. Apparently the leaded font pieces suppressed the tiny period font in some way. A printer schooled in pre-technology type-setting could probably explain it better than I am.

    The result, Hijame and Scotsman, is that today it just looks peculiar not to continue the tradition. I hope you don’t think me too “opinionated.” LOL.. there is an example for you!

  • Guest

    ok… another misspelling on my part… “exclamation”! May I blame my sluggish keyboard? hmmm more likely my sluggish brain. My fintertips do the thinking; they’re too fast.

    By now, perhaps those still reading these comments might figure out that I am an English teacher in America. lol… a maverick these days. Slang comes and goes; it’s sometimes creative, more often it’s lazy. But always it is transient.

    And so I stand by good grammar. Perhaps some of you may disagree, but I think that over the centuries, classic English usage, regardless of vernacular differences attributable to location on this planet, has developed what I call a visual cadence.

    I want to see it maintained. Good grammar flows well, even beautifully. Let’s keep it that way.

  • Michael

    @Guest, re 21 January 2011:

    Hajime’s use of the term ‘full stop’ rather than ‘period’ should have been a clue, if their identification as Australian didn’t give it away already; full stops and their kin do indeed *always* go outside of quotation marks in British, Australian and (as far as I’m aware) other Commonwealth Englishes. The only exception is if the mark is part of the original quotation.

    Hajime, you’re in the right mate.

  • Albert D.


    Canada, in this case, is again an exception from the other Commonwealth countries. Commas and periods are always placed inside quotations in Canada, as is done in the U.S.

  • Michael

    @Albert D.

    Perhaps we should just take it as read that Canada is…er… exceptional. 😉

  • Albert D.


    Haha, yes, I think that’s a fair statement. I’ve heard Australia is a very exceptional country too. I’ll have to visit sometime…and will definitely try to avoid being hit by a “ute.” 😉

  • Joanar

    I often have this dillemma being British born, resident in Canada for 40 years and English/French bilingual. So I have adopted the rule that “program” is for computers and computer/technolgy contexts, and “programme” is for everything else. My rationale is that in a French/English speaking country, if there is a choice or ambiguity of spelling, I use the French originated spelling so that we at least have some symetry between the two official languages – similarly: centre, cigarette, theatre. It just seems to make good sense and economy of spelling.

  • Joanar

    … plus I meant to point out to Guest – in Canada the folks here get quite irritated by reference to “America”. In the Canada the position is that there is no country called America – it is a continent. The correct reference is “the United States” ” the US” or “the USA”. However the residents of the country are correctly termed “Americans” . Any of our First Nations/Native persons in Canada are quaintly referred to by American legal types as “American Indians”. Confusing isnt it? I always find it quite odd now to hear Brits say “America” – after all my years in Canada it really jars.

  • Peter

    You mean English English. I am English, from England as it is a country, and I speak English which is where the English language orginated from.

    I’m not a great fan of calling of “British English”, either (you’re right, it’s just plain English), on the latter point you may be interested to know that earlier residents of your island often dated events by years “since the English came”…bringing with them their language…from somewhere in the vicinity of modern Denmark…

    Both British and American English are used internationally, though the latter is more common.

    I beg to differ. All of the English-speaking world except for the US, and to some extent Canada, and AFAIK all countries where English isn’t the main language, except for Japan, use a form of British English. Something less than 10% of the world’s population live in places where American English would be what they would learn if they learned English (most of them never will, of course). How is that “more common”?

  • Wayne

    Thank you to all who have contributed to this stream of linguistic learning. We should not worry about minor typographical errors, but consider the message instead.
    I am from New Zealand and we often have a unique view on the world, being early adopters of change, small and innovative, and viewing USA, Canadian (not American!), English (who we call POMS), and Australian from an objective viewpoint.
    Note: like the Canadians being broad-brushed with United States folk, lumping NZ’ers Australians is anathema to us.
    My view is that we should forget about where we have come from and think more about where we are going to in linguistic terms.
    In other words, and being a somewhat lazy writer, I try to shorten and simplify words, as long as the communication of the message is not compromised. I therefore use program, simply because it is shorter. Logic should prevail. My time is too important to write or type in extra letters. I would go a great deal further and suggest many words should be revamped. e.g. thought should be thort, rough should be ruf, cough should be cof. Consider the confusing pronunciations of bough, rough, through, though, thought. I have been using short words for many years with no detriment to recipients understanding of my messages. I agree with Lizzie – English language is like a blob that absorbs many influences and is constantly changing. Just wanted to mention that not all ideas are sourced from the USA or England! Another note is that our educators has approved the use of USA spelling and text speak within schools. I don’t agree with all of that but it does highlight the rapidity of change. A bit of a ruf note, but those r thorts do u c? l8r.

  • Michael

    Wayne: Firstly, I hope any and all friends and family in Christchurch are doing well. I’m an Australian with strong Kiwi family connexions.

    That said (and I really do hope you’re well too!), I wouldn’t exactly call the NZ perspective on Australia (or anywhere else) ‘objective’, but I know what you’re driving at.

    By your logic you would, I presume, also spell ‘prologue’, ‘analogue’, etc. in the American fashion ‘prolog’, etc.?

    You are also liable to cause some confusion if you attempt to spell ‘thought’ as ‘thort’—especially for many of our North American, Scots and Irish friends; not to mention a few folks from Southland! This is the chief problem with attempts to rationalize the spelling of English; few spellings would suit the host of pronunciations that exist now or in the future. (N.B. American spelling is *not* a rationalization for the simple reason that it is little more consistent than British spelling.) Indeed, words like ‘thought’ may well have been pronounced as they are written at some stage, but spelling and articulation move at different paces.

    Personally, I detest ‘text message’ spelling, but understand why it’s used. Use it with your mates, by all means (if they tolerate it), but you won’t get very far if you try it on in any remotely formal correspondence. Note that ‘programme’ is still standard NZ English, so you’re free to spell it the American way but you might want to reconsider if you’re writing professionally.

    I wasn’t aware that NZ schools had actually approved American English, only that they were thinking about it. It sounds about as smart as ditching basic grammar, which both Aussie and Kiwi schools had by the seventies; handicapping my generation.

  • Wayne

    Micheal, Thanx for your thorts. I checked last night and all family and friends families I know who live in Christchurch are all safe and well. This was an extremely violent quake. As a student of architecture, Chch had the best old stone buildings in the country with a lovely cathedral. The shocking loss of life dwarfs any bricks and mortar problems.
    Those people will be suffering from a great deal of stress from earthquates going back to last September. Wellington has the rep for quakes, so we are waiting for our turn next.
    All Kiwis really appreciate the help coming from Australia, and our friendly rivalries are quickly put aside with the efforts to save people still trapped under tons of rubble.
    Here’s hoping they survive.

  • Michael

    Wayne: Kiwis and Aussie are whanau mate. Good luck.

  • venqax

    “But in proper English it does have two ‘l’s, and the US form looks like it should be pronounced “traVELing” (not “traVEELing”). I’ve never heard or read anyone trying to explicitly state the rule for this, but there clearly is a rule which I’ve just absorbed by osmosis, which the US spelling breaks.”

    Peter: In American English the rule for words that end in EL or OL at least, is that the final consonant is doubled when adding a suffix ONLY when the the stress is on that syllable. So TRAVEL= TRAVELING, MODEL=MODELING, PATROL= PATROLLING, CONTROL= CONTROLLING. On my American spellchecker, modelling or travelling will get red-lined every time.

  • venqax

    It seems like this is being overly-complicated. In American, there is no such word as programme. So I guess it’s easy here. It appears, from the outside reading this, like in British it’s program for computers and programme for all else? Is that it? In the commonwealth it’s all messy and confused, but isn’t that the norm? I mean that good-naturedly, but really isn’t that usually true? It seems hard to find any “standard” for Canadian or NZ, isn’t it?

  • Albert D.

    You only see “program” in Canada. The only time I see it spelled differently is if the writer is non-North American.

  • Michael


    It’s really no more ‘overly complicated’ than this: There coexist different standards of English. The two dominant ones are US and British, though other countries in the anglosphere have their own, complete with their preferred usage. Within each standard there are accepted variants. US English has ‘prologue’ and ‘prolog’, for instance, and I’m told that ‘thru’ is listed in one of your dictionaries as an acceptable variant of ‘through’.

    The language has always been messy, most languages are, but for a host of historical and political-economic reasons, English is now a lot more standardized. Indeed, given how widespread the language is, it’s a wonder that we understand one another at all.


    We’ve had this conversation old mate; ‘programme’ is perfectly acceptable in Canadian English, just not preferred.

    I think we all need to relax a little and allow a some messiness. After all, we don’t want to become as uptight as the French. 😉

  • venqax

    Yes, M. I’m all for different standards of English. I guess in this case we Americans get off easy because there is no confusion. Your initial posting seemed to lie and lay the whole thing to rest. But, a lass, it was knot too bee.

    Interesting points. Some revisions like catalog and analog have become practically preferred in General American. But I don’t think I’ve seen prolog, or dialog in “formal” print. You do see THRU on road signs in the US, e.g. No Thru Street. And in informal writing all the time, along with tho, altho, nite. Don’t think I’ve seen them in anything formal or “official” tho. …there.

  • Michael


    Not so hasty. Merriam-Webster lists ‘prolog’ as an acceptable variant of ‘prologue’, whereas The New Oxford American Dictionary indicates that ‘prolog’ is only acceptable in reference to a computing language. ‘Thru’ is listed as a variant of ‘through’ in M-W, but relegated to a mere informality in the NOAD. I humbly submit that these examples demonstrate that AmE is no less confusing than British, Irish or any of the various Commonwealth Englishes.

  • venqax

    Oh no Michael! I would never say Am is any less confusing than British. If anything, the opposite. It often seems to me like Brit is more consistent (or I should say RP is more consistent, you have more regional variation than we do), than GA (General American) is. Our problems just aren’t programatic (chuckle). Take the -ILE endings as a case in point: Americans always say MISS’L. But on fragile, juvenile, virile, hostile- we don’t seem able to make up our minds, even tho we are SUPPOSED to say them all alike. OTOH, we get off easy on PRACTICE, too with a universal C. The Commonwealth, tho, does seem especially vexed to me, with the exception of Australian. I think the “other GA”, General Australian, is pretty well established.

    As for the MW stuff, I only meant that I haven’t SEEN prolog (but I don’t read computer stuff at all) and the only place I’VE ever seen thru is on signs and in web-post/email stuff. That’s where I use it all the time. But there are whole genres I’m not famliar with. I do think MW is particularly DEscriptive and “liberal” in what it lists, too, which is why I thought their taking a stand on FebRuary was an even stronger argument for it. They, after all, do list nukyular and irregardless. Not with regard to the fact the latter is not ununsupportable and the former is an amobniation.

  • Andy

    I disagree about always using the spelling “Program” when used with computers.
    As a Computing graduate, I would say a “Program” is an item of software run on a computer but to write the code is to “Programme” it. Don’t care if the people who make dictionaries agree or not, that is just how it is! Simples.

  • Moosa

    Wow – can anyone say any more after all those comments? I am sure we will get a few more comments in the years to come 😉

  • Peter

    The New Oxford American Dictionary indicates that ‘prolog’ is only acceptable in reference to a computing language.

    Surely not…that would be “Prolog”, with a capital P — it’s the name of a language, not a variant spelling of “prologue”.

  • the Apprentice

    So If you are on an apprenticeship, are you on an apprenticeship program or apprenticeship programme?

  • Mrs Pedantic

    Always wondered – thank you. Not sure about your use of…

    “… here’s some examples of how…”. Shouldn’t that be.. ” Here ARE…”

  • J Ward

    so you program a computer, but do you:

    a) program a computer program
    b) program a computer programme?

  • venqax

    Program a computer program. Why do you guys complicate these things? Defense, among, practice…:)

  • Mia

    Yes, you do program a computer to perform tasks or calculations. I will program my computer to find prime numbers, for instance. This is the dictionary entry for the verb “to program”: Provide (a computer or other machine) with coded instructions for the automatic performance of a particular task.

  • Ian Jones

    One thing i am glad about is the apparent universal dropping of gaol for jail, as an Australian I spell program as program, and not programme it looks wrong to me, also, colour is colour, not color centre is center i pronounce derby as DER-be not DAR-be, travelling and not travelling, follows other travel words like traveller, even when using the short message system from mobile phones (sms) i try not to abbreviate like luv, str8 m8, 2day, and the like, however, words such a live (as in to live) and live (as in live brodast) can be confusing to the reader, so i think that language needs to evolve some more, so the confusing is not confusing,

    However, is it not the purpose of writing something down, is so the writer can convey his idea to the reader? Does it really matter what form of the written word takes if this objective is met?

  • Connor

    Many interesting comments here. I think it’s good to be flexible and adapt to whatever spelling the locals prefer. In my own writings I prefer using the original Latin or Greek spelling, if possible, and never the French spelling. Generally that means I spell American English, tho’ I like poetic license.

    Some of us in the USA dream of a future version of the English language with phonetic spelling (as in Italian).

    BTW, the word British also refers to the original inhabitants of the British Isles and their descendants (ref Michael Wood the historian).

  • Sarah

    Sorry, but a coffee maker is not a computer in the sense this article is using.

  • Tezza

    The word “programme” is made up of two Greek words.
    Pro (προς) = towards or in favour of.
    gramme (γραμμή) = line or path.
    When using “programme” as a verb, please keep the above in mind.

  • Verbivore

    All this banter about different national styles/spellings could be avoided if people were to consult relevant style guides. Most nations (and most organisations / corporations) have a style guide (or three).

    Major national style guides include:
    UK: The Oxford Guide to Style
    US: The Chicago Manual of Style
    AU: The Cambridge Australian English Style Guide
    AU: The Australian Government Publishing Service Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers.

    Many institutions that have no internal style guide use an appropriate national or professional (e.g. medicine, law) style guide — and often add their own specific in-house requirements to those external basics.

    Reputable style guides are far more useful than mere dictionaries when one seeks orthographical guidance.

    And to those inflexible prescriptivists who can’t let go of the over-simplified “rules” they were taught in primary school (and thereby demonstrate their limited understanding of the language), note this: there are very few rules but many conventions.

    Settle on your style/s and conventions, then be consistent in their application throughout a document or series of documents. Inconsistency is both sloppy and unprofessional.

    Re paralleling English and Latin: Don’t bother! English is not a Romance language; it is primarily Germanic in origin, though it is probably the world’s most mongrelised tongue, an inveterate borrower and importer of other languages’ words.
    Verbivore (philologist and author of numerous in-house style guides) from Oz

  • venqax

    Ian Jones & Connor: I understand your sentiments, but I think the important thing to note it that there are standards. One thing all the guides agree on is that regardless of the “style” you adopt, you must be consistent. Picking and choosing your spelling, for example, based on what you “like” is really not acceptable. If you are Australian, you should use General Australian in any formal writing. There is such a thing. What it dictates in the cases you cite, I don’t know. I know that in General American, for instance, there is a rule that says final Ls are doubled when adding suffixes if the stress of the root word is not on the final syllable, but NOT if it is. So travel to traveling, model to modeling, but control to contrlling, patrol to patrolling. Likewise “preferring” one spelling over another really doesn’t cut it. Poetic license is for poetry. We’re not usually writing poetry.

    I agree about gaol for one reason in particular: It violates the otherwise pretty strong rule that Gs before As are hard, as in GAME or GALL. According to English’s own rules, gaol should homonymous with gale or else pronounced gay-ole. Similar problems exist the British spelling of sceptic (instead of skeptic) and pronouncing Celtic as if it were spelled Keltic. No good reason for violating what rules we do have.

  • Thomas Sharkey

    Put it this way as far as “different” spelling is concerned. If you are writing for a British audience, then write using British grammar and spelling.

    If your audience is American…well, must I say more?

    Puff, tough, bough, now, know, sew, new,queue, blue, through.

  • venqax

    In some contexts I agree. But generally I would say if YOU are American, write in American. If YOU are British then write in British. If you try to write in a dialect other than your own you’ll probably muck it up and communicate less clearly than if you wrote naturally.

  • Fowler Man


    Australian English has changed dramatically since the 1960s, merely reflecting the winds of change on Australia itself. Factors influencing Australian English include the relative decline of UK power and its joining the EEC, an all-pervasive US culture, the democratisation of university places, an influx of non-English speaking migration, and the quiet, awkward emergence of class difference. In this time, the Australian English dictionary of record has even shifted from the venerable Oxford to the home-grown Macquarie, published first as recently as 1981. The Macquarie Dictionary makes program official.

    The truth is more subtle. Usage of the word is a class marker. Anglo-Australian old families always use programme. For every ten new Australian graduates without even a year of grammar education behind them, for every ten uneducated Australians immersed in US-style, reality TV, for every ten migrants to Australia who struggle with poorly-funded English As A Second Language courses, you will find one old-family Australian of English heritage who uses programme because it’s really the only way. Fowler’s reigns supreme in these knowing houses without any self-consciousness or affectation. It’s just natural.

  • venqax

    Fowler Man: I’m not sure what conclusion you are reaching with your post. After 200 years, shouldn’t Australian English be emerged already as a national standard of its own? E.g., shouldn’t the program/programme issue be determined by Australian-specific criteria, as opposed to what British (or American, for that matter) authorities would dictate? This reluctance is strange, I think. Is it the Commonwealth thing? The gray (American here) tone of semi-independent politics keep this vestigial cultural umbilical cord connected still?

  • Vengeance is mine saith the Lord

    As a Masters degree educated Englishman who has US and Australian citizenship and has lived in all three countries and worked extensively at an executive level, particularly around the IT domain, may I suggest the following:

    Program refers to a program of work which may be managed by a Program Manager
    Programme refers to a set of computer code which may be manipulated by a Computer Programmer

  • venqax

    As an American with a doctoral degree, may I suggest: May for may I suggest it, but Mayye for the month before June. And degree for an academic award, but degriee for temperature. Academic for having to do with academicis, but academicke for one who pursues it. And work for a completed project, but workke for the process of doing it. WHY IS THIS SO HARD!?! It it program. Period. The end. If you are American. There is NO REASON for variation. If, as a non-American, you feel some strange, OCD compulsion to have 2 different forms of the word, the difference between which you can’t even agree on among yourselves, then suggest it to yourselves. See: among, while, defense, license, practice, etc. etc.

  • Stefan

    Important is that you decide for your own which spelling you prefer – the british or the american or the australian. And then stick to it – be coherant. Beeing more attached to the british language I use programme. Hey – and in german its Programm. Anyway – don’t make it complicated, we do understand each other either way “m” or “me” …

  • Dee

    Well, im English and I use programme, because that was what i was taught at school. But basically it really doesn’t matter, another example is dispatch or despatch, both are correct. You still get the point across.

    If you want to get really picky then technically PROGRAM is correct because that is what we English used back in the day. so stop the English/American debate that occurs on every site on the internet and blame the French 😀

  • Homer

    After all these discussion, I actually learn a lot.
    But, my question is why the UN’s global development network
    United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is not spelled as
    United Nations Development Program ?
    same thing like United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
    is not spelled as United Nations Environment Program?
    Any comment would be highly apperciated.

  • venqax

    @Dee: There are different contexts, or *levels* if you will, of correctness. Program and programme are each correct but in their respective dialects.* Programme* is not correct in American English. In British English it is correct. Likewise color/colour, meter/metre, curb/kerb, traveler/traveller, etc. Other times, tho, there are alternative spellings of a word within a dialect. In American English, e.g., advisor/adviser, ax/axe, buses/busses. I’m not sure of hand if the spellings dispatch and dispatch are both acceptable in American. Maybe they are in British.

    @Homer: Because the UN likes French, which says programme. And failing that, it likes British which mimmicks programme. The UN does not like American. Anything American, except of course American money. It likes that a lot. Its linguistic preferences are a reflection of its political attitudes generally, flicking the finger at the USA without being TOO unsubtle. And it is not consistent. While all of its centers are centres, as you’d expect, most of its organizations are organizations. Of course some would argue the Z is more accurate for British as well. Can you believe politics would infect an institution like the UN? Unbelievable.

  • Dale A. Wood

    A major problem in this area is the following:
    British, Irish, and other foreign jounalists and writers, putting “programme” into articles and other works that are intended to be published in the United States of America and in Canada!

    Not only do those writers do it incorrectly, but their editors are too intellectually lazy to make the corrections and to teach their writers. An editor is supposed to be an experienced man or woman, and he / she should KNOW about the things like the differences between British English and the English of North America.
    That is not an insuperable task — and the reason that it doesn’t get done is that they do not even try.

  • Dale A. Wood

    Speaking of the United Nations, did you know that there is a rotation system for choosing the Secretary General from the various continents, but North America is not included?

    Since this rotation got started, we have had Secretaries General from Sweden, Austria, Egypt, Ghana, Burma, South Korea (the present one), and Colombia. It looks like South America is next one the list.

    The Secretary General is never chosen from one of the Big Five permanent members of the Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia (USSR formerly), or China.

    This excludes most of the population of North America, leaving only Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, and the small countries and islands of Central America and the Caribbean Sea. Pierre Trudeau of Canada would have made a fine Secretary General, but he never had the chance. Probably, he was too busy with important problems in Canada, anyway. I don’t think that the other countries that I mentioned have produced a man or woman with the prominence in international relations that is required.
    It is hard to imagine a Secretary General from Cuba, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, the Bahamas, etc., because their populations are so small, and their colleges are so small, too. It is hard for someone to get the necessary experience there.

  • venqax

    Yeah, it’s hard to imagine a UN Secretary General from Cuba, because it’s small. That’s Cuba’s problem. Too small a population for international respect. Same with North Korea. Just too small. And small colleges, too.

  • Brian

    Speaking from my project management experience in Canada (my home), the USA, Australia, the UK and Hong Kong, the first three all use Program to refer to a group of related projects. But my observation in the UK and Hong Kong is that they use Programme to refer not only to a group of projects but also to a project schedule – as in “can I see the programme”. So I prefer the unambiguous Program!

  • Jenny

    I’m Australian and only ever encountered the ‘program’ version full stop.
    I was therefore suprised at my new job at age 50! ( a UK based Co ) to start seeing ‘ programme ‘ version in their documents for the first time and watching Aussies just copying it without any reflection – as I saw personally as ‘ mispelt ‘ immediately. So I have changed all the Australian Print documents for this Co to ‘ program ‘…………………don’t get me started on jail vs gaol. LOL

  • Peter

    As a poor outsider (German), my preference is really on the American spelling. The British version originates from French, and there the spelling rules (:-)) match the French pronunciation. The spelling ‘programme’ indicates a pronunciation like programmee (with a i sound at the end), so English pronounciation rules (:-)) (or what little I know of them) would support my preference. Hence my recommendation: You British, you better start tidying up your vocabulary.

  • ka

    Do you participate ‘in’ a program or ‘on’ a program?

    Natalie is participating in a driving program
    Natalie is participating on a driving program

    I’m English, now living in Australia, and I’m constantly getting my reports corrected for what appears to be colloquial errors, rather than grammatical errors.

  • venqax

    In the USA, at least, you participate IN a program, never on one. I’ve never even heard that before. And programs are never programmes. That last is, I believe, a spelling directly lifted from French and really of no historical validity OR necessity in English.

    Jenny, it’s funny to an American that you did a double-take at “programme”, which I often see and simply pass over as a Britishism, while I get stopped by *misspelt*, also a British thing but one I encounter much less often and that looks strikingly strange to my eyes. (SAE. misspelled).

  • Sean S.

    I’m arriving late to this party, but I’d just like to throw in that I had never seen the spellings “programed” or “programing” (with the single ‘m’) until I read this article just now. I’ve lived in the US all my life and worked as a computer programmer for over 20 years. I had to Google it to make sure those spellings even exist; apparently they do, but they just look wrong to me. So, to anyone learning English, I would advise always using the double-m when adding -ed or -ing.

  • venqax

    Sean: In SAE there is a little-known rule that when adding suffixes to multi-syllabic nouns ending in a single consonant and having emphasis on their first syllable you do not double the consonant:

    travel traveled traveling
    model modeled modeling

    But when the emphasis is on the second syllable, you do double:

    patrol patrolled patrolling

    control controlled controlling

    excel excelled excelling

    By this rule, program would issue programed and programing. However, there seems to be an exception to this when failing to double the consonant might lead to mispronunciation of the resulting word because it would indicate a long vowel. With most consonants besides L, the doubling of the final letter seems necessary to preserve the root-word’s pronunciation. E.g. the spelling programing would be typically pronounced with a long A– progrAYming– because Ms are usually doubled when adding a suffix regardless of emphasis. Because of this last point, programmed and programming would seem to be the preferred renderings.

  • The Dude

    From my time studying the origins of computer science, I believe the Cambridge educated Alan Turing, arguably the father of modern computer science, spelt the word “programme”. Ergo modern parlance, even in the British isles is a bastardisation of the English language through New World influence.

  • thorinii

    As an Australian, I’d spell it travelling, but often pronounce it TRAVling…

  • AJ

    So let me get this straight. The word in English was originally ‘program’ then was changed to ‘programme’ after being influenced by the French, but the traditionalists are arguing that ‘programme’ is British English and that ‘program’ is a bastardised version influenced by spelling in the ‘New World’.
    I think I need to buy a booke on English from a shoppe.

  • Nigel

    Well that was an interesting read. My take on this is simple and hopefully logical. Program is just word for a set of rules to automate a process. Programme is a logical group of related activities. Having two words with distinct meanings allows unambiguous communication. We have enough examples of the same word meaning two things so let’s not propogate the problem.
    And as an aside…in relation to comminucation did you know taht as lnog as the frist and lsat letter of each wrod in a setnence is correct, the meainng will be undretsood.

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