January 29, 2021

What did Oxford do to deserve this?

Like most writers I know, I’m no fan of the American ‘z’ spelling: analyze, specialize, maximize, and all the rest of them! Even worse is written text that mixes ‘z’ spellings with UK English, which is guaranteed to set the scientific writing team ranting, much to the amusement of the rest of the kdm office!


Regrettably, it seems that there is an excuse for this – what the technical writing team here refers to as the Oxford z, since the use of ‘ize’ spellings is part of the house style at Oxford University Press! Despite widespread belief that ‘z’ spellings originate from the US, it seems that the ‘-ize’ forms have been used in UK English since the 15th century, with the verb ‘organize’ first appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1425. The word ‘realize’ surfaced in the OED 1611, yet the first recorded use of the ‘-ise’ spelling does not appear until 1755 – more than a century later! However, today the more common UK spelling of words such as these is ‘ise’.


While it seems that either convention is acceptable in British English, the important thing is to be consistent. That said, it’s called English for reason and so we’re sticking with analyse for our marketing communications whenever we have a choice!

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