Blog de Comunicación Académica

Técnicas de comunicación académica en español e inglés como lenguas extranjeras

Realise or realize?

Why do some people spell words with “ise” while others use “ize”? Which is correct?

In the United States, words like “organize”, “realize”, “familiarize” and “colonize” are spelled with a “z”, and yet you will find the spellings “organise”, “realise”, “familiarise” and “colonise” in many books published in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Spellings with “ize” are often regarded as American, because “ize” is the standard form in American English. However, “ize” spellings are also used by Oxford University Press and the Oxford Dictionary, and are sometimes known as “Oxford spelling”. The Oxford Dictionary defends this position by saying that words derived from Greek should follow the “z” spelling of the original language. Today, “ize” spellings are generally used in scientific publications across the world. However, “ise” spellings are used by many influential British institutions, including Cambridge University Press and many leading newspapers. In fact, “ise” spellings have become more common in British English in recent years, perhaps as a reaction against American spelling. The European Union also now uses “ise” spellings in its official documents.

Even if you prefer to use “ize” spellings, you should remember that some words which might seem to fit into this category are always spelled with “ise”, even in the USA and in Oxford publications, because they are not derived from Greek. These include words like: “advertise”, “advise”, “arise”, “compromise”, “devise”, “excise”, “exercise”, “incise”, “revise”, “supervise”, “surmise” “surprise” and “televise”.

It is also useful to note that many scientific words which end in “yze” or “yse” follow a different pattern. These words are always written with “yze” in American English, and “yse” in British English. Examples of this are “analyze”, “paralyze” and “catalyze” (USA), which are written “analyse”, “paralyse” and “catalyse” in all variants of British English.

If you are writing for a specific journal, it is a good idea to look at the style sheet or guidelines for authors, which will usually specify whether you should use British or American spelling, and in the former case, whether “ise” or “ize” is preferred. If no specific instructions are given, you should choose one type of spelling and keep to it throughout your paper. It makes a bad impression to mix two different kinds of spelling!

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