Correct Composition/Chapter 1


The practice of typography - chapter headpiece 02.png



SEVEN large dictionaries of the English language in daily use show that they find approval by editions frequently reprinted: in England and her colonies are Stormonth's, the Imperial, and the Oxford; in the United States are Webster's (or, in its latest edition, Webster's International), Worcester's, the Century, and the Standard. They do not agree in the spelling of every word, and scholars who have been taught in boyhood to accept the spelling of a certain dictionary usually adhere to that spelling in manhood and sometimes are intolerant of any other. It follows that there is occasional disagreement between writers and printers about correct spelling. Considering the great number of words that find place in every dictionary, the words of changeable spelling are relatively few. Most noticeable in English dictionaries are the retention of u in -our words like honour and colour, and the preference for s in words that all American dictionaries spell with z, as authorize and harmonize. Peculiarities like ax, wagon, program, theater, and the rejection of one of the doubled consonants in words like traveled, are mannerisms of some American dictionaries.

In the compounding of words the divergences are great and increasing. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century rail road and steam boat were separate words; after a little use the noun and its qualifier were connected by a hyphen; now they are welded together in one word by all dictionary makers. Other words have undergone or are now undergoing similar changes, which have been made in print, not by the order of any academy or by accepted teachers of language, but by writers who choose to deviate from previous usage. All the changes begin with writers. Dictionary makers (Webster excepted) claim that they do not originate changes, and that they record only those that have been generally accepted.

To many readers the variations of British and American spelling and of compounded and separated words are of slight importance. Toleration is conceded to national mannerisms that have been confirmed by usage and do not confuse the meaning intended. Yet there are changes which seem trivial to the reader that are of importance to the printer. To take out u in colour to please one author, to put u in honor to please another, and to compound or to separate meeting words in the proof when these words were not so written in the copy, are discouraging to the compositor and hindrances to quick performance.

The changes sanctioned by dictionaries seem to have been a sufficient warrant for some writers to take other and greater liberties. Books are made here and abroad in which some words are spelled and compounded after one dictionary and other words by another. In compound words editors and proof-readers find opportunity for the exercise of nice critical ability in the making of alterations which they assert are for the sake of consistency, but it is difficult for any one who is not a professional lexicographer to be minutely exact in following all the compoundings of any dictionary. It is still more difficult for a proof-reader to aid the author in the establishment of this consistency when that author uses or rejects peculiarities at his pleasure; for, in spite of all dictionary teachings, the author is the only authority beyond appeal in the printing-house for the spelling and division of words.

The order of an author to disregard all variable spellings in his copy, and to spell according to a specified dictionary, has to be obeyed in the first stage of the work by compositors who have small knowledge of, and often no access to, that authority, for not one printing-house in a hundred has more than one dictionary as a book of reference. Prompt obedience is impracticable when British orthography is demanded. The Imperial and Stormonth's dictionaries are known by name only to many American proof-readers, and the great Oxford dictionary, still incomplete, is out of reach of the workmen who need it most. In the absence of authority the compositor and the proof-reader have to hazard guesses, based on analogy, at the spelling desired, and some of the guesses are certain to be wrong. Failing to find in the first proof the spelling he prefers, the author does last what he should have done first, and carefully writes out on the proof the spellings which should have been made in his copy. These alterations delay the work and give dissatisfaction to the author because of the added expense.[1]

There are some niceties in spelling and style that have to be passed with slight notice. The formation of foreign words in the plural number, obsolete or little-used forms of past tenses and participles, and the use of accents and diacritical marks for words in English, belong to grammar rather than to typography. In the use of these niceties authors and editors have been and will continue to be laws to themselves. For them, and indeed for all who have made the niceties of literature a study, this book was not written. It is intended for the much larger number of compositors and proof-readers who are more or less bewildered by the obscure writing of different authors, especially in words that end in -able and -ible, -ent and -ant, -ise and -ize, -or and -er, and by the conflict of authorities out of their reach. The compositor especially needs a book of reference in which different spellings are presented and the spelling preferred by the author is clearly set forth.

The right of an educated author to spell as he pleases is not to be questioned, but he should write distinctly. As an additional safeguard, he should note on the first page of his copy the name of the dictionary he desires to be accepted as authority. If he chooses to deviate from that dictionary in some words, he should prepare a list of his spellings of these words. This precaution is especially important for his own guidance in geographical and historical names which are differently rendered in foreign languages, as Mentz, Mainz, and Mayence. It should not be expected that a compositor will make any one spelling invariable when spellings vary in copy, or that a proof-reader will attempt uniformity without positive instruction. Arabic and Oriental names with many accents, and ordinary names with diacritical marks, need particular attention. The preparation of a proper code of spellings calls for time and trouble on the part of the author, but he is well repaid by cleaner proofs and by largely reduced expense for alterations in type. These precautions are observed in their best work by all disciplined writers.

Much copy comes into every printing-house from writers who are not illiterate, but who are careless or apparently indifferent about spelling and writing. When they do not give particular directions, and their spelling is not uniform, it is the rule of all printing-houses that the spelling shall be that of the dictionary selected by that house as authority. When two or more forms of the same word are presented in that dictionary, preference should be given to the form that has the first place. A debatable form of spelling in copy that may be queried afterward by the proof-reader should not be anticipated and corrected by the compositor. Correction before the reading of proof is always a risk, and in many houses an unpardonable liberty. It is safer to follow copy and to leave all suggestions of emendation to the proof-reader. The remarks on spelling that follow have to be confined to words made uncertain by illegible writing or by carelessness in the preparation of the copy.


Changes from the singular to the plural in a proof negligently revised sometimes put upon a compositor the duty of making a proper plural. It is usually formed by adding s to the word in the singular number, as bamboo, bamboos; cameo, cameos; folio, folios; octavo, octavos. When the added s makes another syllable (as it does in hiss, hisses; sash, sashes), and sometimes when it does not (as in buffalo, buffaloes; potato, potatoes; negro, negroes; hero, heroes), es is added.

When the noun ends in y, preceded by a consonant, the y is changed in the plural to ies, as in dainty, dainties; pygmy, pygmies; spy, spies.

Some words ending in f or fe change the f for v in the plural, as half, halves; shelf, shelves; knife, knives. Fifes, proofs, and strifes are exceptions. Nouns in common use, derived from foreign languages, usually form their plurals according to the general English rule, as index, indexes; cherub, cherubs; formula, formulas; seraph, seraphs; beau, beaus; but in scientific writings the plurals should be formed according to the rules of the language from which the words have been derived, as in

  • appendix, appendices
  • beau, beaux
  • medium, media
  • formula, formulae
  • index, indices
  • cherub, cherubim
  • seraph, seraphim
  • vortex, vortices

For the proper plurals of foreign words, and of some others that are accepted as strictly English, the dictionary should be consulted. The formation of the plurals of English words cannot be reduced to a few simple rules: in some words they are of great irregularity, as may be seen in these examples:

  • brother, brethren
  • cayman, caymans
  • child, children
  • foot, feet
  • goose, geese
  • man, men
  • mongoose, mongooses
  • mouse, mice
  • Mr., Messrs.
  • Mrs., Mesdames
  • ox, oxen
  • tooth, teeth

While s is sometimes added to the nouns Bedouin, cannon, heathen, to indicate the plural, they are commonly regarded as both singular and plural, and the final s is omitted. On the other hand, some words plural in form, as means (agency or instrumentality), ethics, politics, news, optics, may be used as nominatives with verbs in the singular number; but wages, pains, aborigines, antipodes, and literati need a verb in the plural number.

Compounded nouns add the s to the principal word, as in courts-martial, sons-in-law, stepsons, major-generals, four-per-cents.

The plural of nouns ending in ful, as handful, spoonful, etc., is one of the unsettled spellings. Some make it handsful, spoonsful, etc.; but the preference of most writers is for spelling the words as oftenest pronounced, handfuls, spoonfuls, etc.


The digraphs (or diphthongs, as they are commonly called) æ and œ are not in as much favor as they have been for the true rendering of Latin and Greek words and their derivatives. Aeneid, Aeschylus, Caesar,[2] Oedipus, mediaeval, etc., are so written now by many classical scholars. In early English names like Ælfred and Cædmon, and in French words like manœuvre, the digraph should be retained.


It is a good general rule to use an before a word beginning with a vowel sound, or in which the initial h is silent, and to use a before a word beginning with a consonant or a consonant sound, or with a vowel preceded by a strong aspirate. The few exceptions cannot be classified.

  • a eulogy
  • a European
  • a ewe
  • a ewer
  • a heroic
  • a historical
  • an adder
  • an heir, -loom
  • a hope
  • a horse
  • a hospital[3]
  • a hotel[3]
  • a humble
  • a oneness
  • an herb, -al
  • an honest
  • a unanimous
  • a uniform
  • a union
  • a universal
  • a useful
  • a usurper
  • an honor, -able
  • an hour, -glass


It is one of the many merits of the English language that words and sentences can be made sufficiently intelligible without the aid of accents, which are reserved for dictionaries and educational books. The grave accent for the final syllable -èd occasionally is used in poetry to show that this -ed is a distinct syllable. It rarely appears in prose, but when so marked by an author it should be repeated. All words or proper names distinctively foreign should be carefully accented as they appear in their own language. Other foreign words that have been incorporated in the English language, as depot, debut, debris, etc., do not need accents; but when accents have been carefully added by the writer they should so appear in print.


The forms O and oh are often made interchangeable by some very careful writers; but it seems to be generally conceded that the proper form for an address in the vocative is O, with the exclamation-point at the end of the exclamatory phrase, and not immediately after the interjection.

O Lord, have mercy on us!
O my fellow-citizens!
Break on thy cold gray stones, O sea!
Blessed art thou, O Lord!

O is also used as an ejaculation expressive of a wish or desire, when it is joined to the following clause by the word for or that.

O for rest and peace !
that I had wings like a dove !

As an interjection expressing surprise, indignation, or regret, O is frequently followed by an implied ellipsis and the word that.

O [it is sad] that I should live to see this day!

O is common as an exclamation in trivial speech : as, O my ! O dear ! In many Southern States O is the customary beginning of familiar and abrupt address, as O John! O James!

Oh, an ejaculation evoked by pain or woe, or by sudden emotion, as surprise, consternation, or delight, properly takes a lower-case letter (except when beginning a sentence), and is followed by an exclamation-point either directly after the oh or at the end of the exclamatory phrase.

But she is in her grave, and oh !
The difference to me !
Oh, how I suffer !
Oh ! my offence is rank, it smells to heaven.

Oh is often used, even in the Northern States, as a colloquial introduction to a sentence, as in

Oh, James, I am glad to see you.
Oh, yes, it is quite satisfactory.


The correct spelling of words that end in -ible or -able is often a puzzle to a compositor when they have been obscurely written. For his guidance the following list of the -ible words is presented. It may be inferred that doubtful words not appearing in this list end in -able.[4]

  • accessible
  • admissible
  • appetible
  • apprehensible
  • audible
  • cessible
  • coercible
  • compatible
  • competible
  • comprehensible
  • compressible
  • conceptible
  • contemptible
  • contractible
  • controvertible
  • convertible
  • convincible
  • corrigible
  • corrosible
  • corruptible
  • credible
  • decoctible
  • deducible
  • defeasible
  • defensible
  • descendible
  • destructible
  • digestible
  • discernible
  • distensible
  • divisible
  • docible
  • edible
  • effectible
  • eligible
  • eludible
  • enforcible
  • evincible
  • expansible
  • expressible
  • extendible
  • extensible
  • fallible
  • feasible
  • fencible
  • flexible
  • forcible
  • frangible
  • fusible
  • gullible
  • horrible
  • illegible
  • immiscible
  • impassible (see 17)
  • intelligible
  • irascible
  • legible
  • miscible
  • negligible
  • partible
  • passible (see below}
  • perceptible
  • permissible
  • persuasible
  • pervertible
  • plausible
  • possible
  • producible
  • reducible
  • reflexible
  • refrangible
  • remissible
  • reprehensible
  • resistible
  • responsible
  • reversible
  • revertible
  • risible
  • seducible
  • sensible
  • tangible
  • terrible
  • transmissible
  • visible

Impassible (incapable of suffering or emotion) should be distinguished from impassable (not passable). This remark applies also to the words passible and passable.


To lead to a uniform pronunciation of words containing the Greek χ, heretofore rendered as c before some vowels and as s before other vowels, some writers in England and many on the Continent write k in classical names and their compounds : Thukydides for Thucydides, Kikero for Cicero, Kimmerian for Cimmerian, Mykenae for Mycenae. These new spellings are chosen almost exclusively by teachers of the classics. When the compositor finds either form in the manuscript of an educated writer he should repeat it faithfully without question or remark. The determination of the proper form is outside the province of the compositor or proof-reader.


The common words canine, feline, marine, divine, clandestine, are always spelled with the final e, and this was the preferred form for chlorin, cholesterin, creatin, fibrin, protein, etc.; but authors who now write on medicine or therapeutics reject the final e. The old chemical terms chloride, oxide, etc., are now written chlorid, oxid, etc.[5]


Words ending in -or and -er are often especially misleading in illegibly written manuscript. The following lists of these words will be found helpful :

  • abbreviator
  • abductor
  • abettor (law)
  • abominator
  • abrogator
  • accelerator
  • acceptor (law)
  • accommodator
  • accumulator
  • actor
  • adjudicator
  • adjutor
  • administrator
  • admonitor
  • adulator
  • adulterator
  • aggravator
  • aggressor
  • agitator
  • amalgamator
  • animator
  • annotator
  • antecessor
  • apparitor
  • appreciator
  • arbitrator
  • assassinator
  • assessor
  • benefactor
  • bettor (one who bets)
  • calculator
  • calumniator
  • captor
  • castor (oil)
  • censor (examiner, critic)
  • coadjutor
  • collector
  • competitor
  • compositor
  • conductor
  • confessor
  • conqueror
  • conservator
  • consignor
  • conspirator
  • constrictor
  • constructor
  • contaminator
  • contemplator
  • continuator
  • contractor
  • contributor
  • corrector
  • councillor
  • counsellor
  • covenantor (law)
  • creator
  • creditor
  • cultivator
  • cunctator
  • debtor
  • decorator
  • delator (law)
  • denominator
  • denunciator
  • depredator
  • depressor
  • deteriorator
  • detractor
  • dictator
  • dilator
  • director
  • dissector
  • disseizor (law)
  • disseminator
  • distributor
  • divisor
  • dominator
  • donor
  • effector
  • elector
  • elevator
  • elucidator
  • emulator
  • enactor
  • equivocator
  • escheator
  • estimator
  • exactor
  • excavator
  • exceptor
  • executor (law)
  • exhibitor
  • explorator
  • expositor
  • expostulator
  • extensor
  • extirpator
  • extractor
  • fabricator
  • factor
  • flexor
  • fornicator
  • fumigator
  • generator
  • gladiator
  • governor
  • grantor (law)
  • habitator
  • imitator
  • impostor
  • impropriator
  • inaugurator
  • inceptor
  • incisor
  • inheritor
  • initiator
  • innovator
  • insinuator
  • institutor
  • instructor
  • interlocutor
  • interpolator
  • interrogator
  • inventor
  • investor
    • juror
  • lector
  • legator
  • legislator
  • lessor (law)
  • mediator
  • modulator
  • monitor
  • mortgagor (law)
  • multiplicator
  • narrator
  • navigator
  • negotiator
  • nonjuror
  • numerator
  • objector
  • obligor (law)
  • observator
  • operator
  • originator
  • pacificator
  • participator
  • peculator
  • percolator
  • perforator
  • perpetrator
  • persecutor
  • personator
  • perturbator
  • possessor
  • preceptor
  • precursor
  • predecessor
  • predictor
  • prevaricator
  • procrastinator
  • procreator
  • procurator
  • professor
  • progenitor
  • projector
  • prolocutor
  • promulgator
  • propagator
  • propitiator
  • proprietor
  • prosecutor
  • protector
  • protractor
  • purveyor
  • recognizer (law)
  • recriminator
  • reflector
  • regenerator
  • regulator
  • relator (law)
  • rotator
  • sacrificator
  • sailor (seaman)
  • scrutator
  • sculptor
  • sectator
  • selector
  • senator
  • separator
  • sequestrator
  • servitor
  • solicitor
  • spectator
  • speculator
  • spoliator
  • sponsor
  • successor
  • suitor
  • supervisor
  • suppressor
  • surveyor
  • survivor
  • testator
  • tormentor
  • traitor
  • transgressor
  • translator
  • valuator
  • vendor (law)
  • venerator
  • ventilator
  • vindicator
  • violator
  • visitor


  • abetter[7]
  • abstractor
  • accepter
  • adapter
  • adviser
  • affirmer
  • aider
  • almoner
  • annoyer
  • arbiter
  • assenter
  • asserter
  • bailer[7]
  • caster (cruet, roller)
  • censer (vessel)
  • concocter
  • condenser
  • conferrer
  • conjurer
  • consulter
  • continuer
  • contradicter
  • contriver
  • convener
  • conveyer
  • corrupter
  • covenanter
  • debater
  • defender
  • deliberater
  • deserter
  • desolater
  • deviser
  • discontinuer
  • disturber
  • entreater
  • exalter
  • exasperater
  • exciter
  • executer[7]
  • expecter
  • frequenter
  • granter[7]
  • idolater
  • imposer
  • impugner
  • incenser
  • inflicter
  • insulter
  • interceder
  • interpreter
  • interrupter
  • inviter
  • jailer
  • lamenter
  • mortgager[7]
  • obliger[7]
  • obstructer
  • obtruder
  • perfecter
  • perjurer
  • preventer
  • probationer
  • propeller
  • protester
  • recognizer[7]
  • regrater
  • relater[7]
  • respecter
  • sailer (ship)
  • sorcerer
  • suggester
  • supplanter
  • upholder
  • vender[7]


A complete list of these words would be too long for a table of ready reference, but the different endings may be determined by this rule : Words which, in their shortest form, end with -d, -de, -ge, -mit, -rt, -se, or -ss, are usually lengthened by the ending -sion. Other words take the ending -tion.

  • abscind, abscission
  • absterge, abstersion
  • admit, admission
  • condescend, condescension
  • confess, confession
  • confuse, confusion
  • convert, conversion
  • descend, descension
  • emerge, emersion
  • evade, evasion
  • extend, extension
  • impress, impression
  • intrude, intrusion
  • pervert, perversion
  • pretend, pretension
  • protrude, protrusion
  • remit, remission
  • revert, reversion
  • revise, revision
  • seclude, seclusion


  • adhesion
  • assertion


  • coercion
  • cohesion
  • crucifixion
  • declension
  • dimension
  • dissension
  • distortion
  • divulsion
  • expulsion
  • impulsion
  • insertion
  • intention
  • occasion
  • propulsion
  • recursion
  • repulsion
  • revulsion
  • scansion
  • suspicion
  • tension
  • version


The terminations specified in this heading are often made misleading by careless or illegible writing. The following is a list of many common words ending in -ence, -ency, -ent:

  • abducent
  • abhorrence, -ent
  • abluent
  • absent, -ence
  • absorbent
  • abstergent
  • abstinence, -ent
  • adherence, -ent
  • advertency, -ent
  • affluence, -ent
  • antecedence
  • antecedent
  • apparent
  • appertinent
  • appetence, -ency
  • ardent
  • benevolence,-ent
  • circumference
  • coexistence
  • coherence, -ent
  • coincidence, -ent
  • competence, -ent
  • concurrence, -ent
  • condolence
  • conference
  • confidence, -ent
  • confluence, -ent
  • consentient
  • consequence
  • consequent
  • consistence, -ent
  • consistency
  • constituent
  • continence, -ent
  • convenience, -ent
  • corpulence, -ent
  • correspondence
  • correspondent
  • currency, -ent
  • deference
  • delinquency, -ent
  • dependence
  • dependent (adj.)
  • deponent
  • descendent(adj.)
  • despondency
  • despondent
  • difference
  • diffidence, -ent
  • diffluent
  • efficiency, -ent
  • eminence, -ency
  • eminent
  • excellence, -ency
  • excellent
  • existence, -ent
  • expediency, -ent
  • feculence, -ent
  • flocculence, -ent
  • fluency, -ent
  • fraudulence,-ent
  • imminence, -ent
  • impatience, -ent
  • impellent
  • imprudence, -ent
  • impudence, -ent
  • incipience, -ent
  • incumbency,-ent
  • independence
  • independent
  • indolence, -ent
  • inference
  • inherence, -ent
  • intermittent
  • iridescence, -ent
  • lambent
  • latency, -ent
  • leniency, -ent
  • magniloquence
  • magniloquent
  • malevolence,-ent
  • mellifluence, -ent
  • mollient
  • obedience, -ent
  • occurrence, -ent
  • omniscience, -ent
  • opulence, -ency
  • opulent
  • patience, -ent
  • pendency
  • pendent (adj.)
  • penitence, -ent
  • permanence
  • permanency
  • permanent
  • pertinence, -ent
  • pestilence, -ent
  • poculent
  • portent
  • potency, -ent
  • precedence, -ent
  • preference
  • prescience, -ent
  • presence, -ent
  • presidency, -ent
  • proficiency, -ent
  • prominence, -ent
  • proponent
  • providence, -ent
  • prudence, -ent
  • purulence, -ent
  • quintessence
  • recurrence, -ent
  • reference
  • refluence, -ent
  • repellent
  • residence, -ency
  • resident
  • resolvent
  • resplendence
  • resplendent
  • respondent
  • reverence, -ent
  • sentient
  • solvency, -ent
  • somnolency, -ent
  • subserviency
  • subservient
  • subsidence, -ency
  • subsistence, -ent
  • succulent
  • superintendence
  • superintendency
  • superintendent
  • tendence, -ency
  • transcendence
  • transcendency
  • transcendent
  • transference
  • transient
  • transparency
  • transparent
  • transplendency
  • transplendent
  • turbulence, -ent
  • vicegerency, -ent
  • virulence, -ent

With few exceptions, words not found in the above list should end in -ance, -ancy, or -ant.


Names of persons and places are frequently misspelled. The proper names of geography, history, fiction, and mythology are differently rendered in different languages. Two forms of the same name may be written unwittingly by a rapid writer. To decide upon one form is the duty, not of the compositor (nor yet of the proof-reader, who should query unless authorized to change), but of the author, who should write the name in one form only for the same book. When this duty devolves on the proof-reader he may confidently accept the preferred spelling of the dictionary prescribed.

There are, however, many names not to be found in the ordinary dictionary. Indian names, and new places in the United States recently named, will be found in the lists prepared by the Board on Geographic Names at Washington.[8] For persons of local celebrity, the proof-reader is advised to record the proper spelling in an indexed memorandumbook. The names here given need special care.

  • Acadia (Nova Scotia)
  • Alleghany Mountains
  • Allegheny City
  • Allegheny River
  • Andersen, Hans C.
  • Apennines
  • Appalachian
  • Arcadia, poetical
  • Bastille, The
  • Biglow Papers
  • Bonheur, Rosa, painter
  • Britannia
  • Brittany
  • Brookline, Mass.
  • Brooklyn, New York
  • Burdette, Robert Jones
  • Carey, Mathew, publicist
  • Caribbean Sea
  • Caribbees
  • Carlisle, J. G.
  • Carlyle, Thomas, author
  • Charleston, S.C.
  • Charlestown, Mass.
  • Chile
  • Colombia (South American republic)
  • Coverley, Sir Roger de
  • Dantzic
  • Davy, Sir Humphry
  • De Quincey, Thomas
  • Defoe, Daniel, author
  • Douglas, Stephen Arnold
  • Douglass, Frederick
  • Eifel River (in Germany)
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Eliot, George, author
  • Elliott, Ebenezer
  • Ericsson, John, inventor
  • Fenelon, ecclesiastic
  • Field, Cyrus W.
  • Fields, James T., author
  • Fiske, John, historian
  • Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Gary, Phoebe, author
  • Gérôme, Jean Léon, artist
  • Gray, Thomas, poet
  • Greeley, Horace
  • Greely, General A. W.
  • Green, J. R., historian
  • Greene, Robert, dramatist
  • Grey, Lady Jane
  • Harte, Francis Bret
  • Hobbes, John Oliver
  • Hobbes, Thomas
  • Humphrey, Duke
  • Hutton, Laurence, author
  • Iviza
  • Johnson, Samuel, author
  • Johnston, Albert Sidney
  • Jonson, Ben, dramatist
  • Leipsic
  • Lenox Library
  • Lichfield, England
  • Litchfield, Connecticut
  • Livingstone, David
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Luxembourg Palace
  • Luxemburg, Belgium
  • Magdalen College,Oxford
  • Magdalene College, Camb.
  • Mainz
  • Mitchell, Donald G.
  • Mitchill, Samuel L.
  • Morris, Gouverneur
  • Mytilene, island (also chief city) of Lesbos
  • Nuremberg
  • Oliphant, Laurence
  • Philips, Ambrose, author
  • Phillips, Wendell
  • Poe, Edgar Allan, poet
  • Procter, Adelaide, poet
  • Pyrenees
  • Read, Thomas B., poet
  • Reade, Charles, novelist
  • Reed, Thomas B.
  • Reid, Thomas
  • Reid, Whitelaw
  • Rhead, Louis, artist
  • Rheims
  • Shakspere, [9] William
  • Sidney, Sir Philip, author
  • Smith, Sydney
  • Spencer, Herbert
  • Spenser, Edmund, poet
  • Sterne, Laurence, author
  • Strasburg (French)
  • Strassburg (German)
  • Thompson, Benjamin
  • Thomson, James, poet
  • Ward, Mrs. Humphry
  • Watt, James, inventor
  • Watts, Dr. Isaac
  • Würtemberg


British spelling is occasionally required, and as dictionaries made in England are not accessible to compositors, special lists of some variable words in frequent use are here appended. (See also three columns in Appendix A. ) A general direction to use British spelling is not specific enough. There are differences between the Imperial, Stormonth, and the Oxford;[10] therefore a request for British spelling should name the dictionary to be followed.


The words in British spelling which most perplex the compositor are those ending in -our, as

  • arbour
  • ardour
  • armour
  • behaviour
  • candour
  • clamour
  • clangour
  • colour
  • contour
  • demeanour
  • disfavour
  • dishonour
  • dolour
  • enamour[11]
  • endeavour
  • favour
  • fervour
  • flavour
  • glamour[11]
  • harbour
  • honour
  • humour
  • labour
  • misbehaviour
  • neighbour
  • odour
  • parlour
  • rancour
  • rigour
  • rumour
  • savour
  • splendour
  • succour
  • tabour
  • tambour
  • tumour
  • valour
  • vapour
  • vigour
While the -our words are always seen in British spelling, [12] the Oxford dictionary does not follow the method of Stormonth, who changes many verbs ending in -ize to -ise, as in civilise, realise, utilise.


  • advertise
  • advise
  • affranchise
  • apprise (to inform)
  • chastise
  • circumcise
  • comprise
  • compromise
  • demise
  • despise
  • devise
  • disfranchise
  • disguise
  • emprise
  • enfranchise
  • enterprise
  • excise
  • exercise
  • franchise
  • improvise
  • incise
  • mainprise
  • manumise
  • merchandise
  • premise
  • reprise
  • revise
  • surmise
  • surprise


  • aggrandize
  • agonize
  • anatomize
  • anglicize
  • apologize
  • apostrophize
  • apprize (to appraise)
  • authorize
  • baptize
  • brutalize
  • canonize
  • catechize
  • cauterize
  • centralize
  • characterize
  • civilize
  • colonize
  • criticize
  • crystallize
  • demoralize
  • dogmatize
  • economize
  • epitomize
  • equalize
  • eulogize
  • evangelize
  • exorcize
  • extemporize
  • familiarize
  • fertilize
  • fraternize
  • galvanize
  • generalize
  • gormandize
  • harmonize
  • immortalize
  • jeopardize
  • localize
  • magnetize
  • memorialize
  • mesmerize
  • metamorphize
  • methodize
  • modernize
  • monopolize
  • moralize
  • nationalize
  • naturalize
  • neutralize
  • organize
  • ostracize
  • oxidize
  • paralyze
  • particularize
  • patronize
  • philosophize
  • plagiarize
  • polarize
  • pulverize
  • realize
  • recognize
  • reorganize
  • revolutionize
  • satirize
  • scandalize
  • scrutinize
  • secularize
  • signalize
  • solemnize
  • soliloquize
  • spiritualize
  • stigmatize
  • syllogize
  • symbolize
  • sympathize
  • tantalize
  • temporize
  • tranquillize
  • tyrannize
  • universalize
  • utilize
  • vocalize
  • vulgarize
In the New English (Oxford) Dictionary all the words that end in -ment retain the e in the preceding syllable, as abridgement, acknowledgement, judgement. In other English and in all American dictionaries the e is dropped.

Farther is generally restricted to distance: as, "thus far, and no farther," or "farther down the river," etc. Further is equivalent to additional, besides, moreover: as, " I have no further use for him," " further consideration of the matter."


Reformed spelling, so called, is seldom presented in copy, but when so used by a writer it may be queried by the compositor: if he finds in his copy hav for have, thru for through, fonografy for phonography, and other spellings of like nature, shall he spell the words as written? When the writer of these spellings orders and pays for the printing, his spelling must be followed without question; but when this reformed spelling appears in a contribution to a periodical, and the printing is done at the expense of the publisher, that publisher or his editor has the right to determine the spelling. This determination should be made before the copy goes to the compositor, and should be expressed in writing on the first page.


It is difficult to draw the line and say when copy should, and when it should not, be faithfully followed. Properly considered, it is an act of kindness when the compositor throws a mantle of correct composition over a writer's indecent exposure of his bad spelling and writing, but he always does it at a risk. As a rule, the ignorant writer is tenacious about his spelling and expression of thought. Editors of newspapers frequently take malicious pleasure in printing a fault-finding communication exactly as it was written, and always to the writer's mortification. There are sent to newspapers communications of such delightful absurdity that it seems unwise and really foolish to attempt betterments that destroy their peculiarities.[14]

  1. To remove some of these hindrances to acceptable composition the writer has prepared a list of variable spellings compiled from seven dictionaries infrequent use. (See Appendix A.) The spelling of the Standard dictionary differs from that of the Century in comparatively few words, but the exceptions are enough to be noted. The list may not include every variation, but it does include all in ordinary use, and some that the compositor may never meet.
    Expression of preference for the authority of any dictionary has been avoided. Remarks occasionally made about variable spelling are not intended to be dogmatic or argumentative, but helpful only.
  2. The Latin races discard the diphthong in names and words derived from Latin or Greek. Caesar in French is César.
  3. 3.0 3.1 These are American methods. There are English authors of eminence who write an hotel, an hospital, an hydraulic.
  4. On the use of this suffix, Dr. in Fitzedward Hall's authoritative treatise, On English Adjectives in-able, etc. (London, Trübner & Co., 1877), may be consulted with advantage.
  5. The new spellings of chemical words, which appear in the Century and the Standard dictionaries, and in the last edition of Gould's Dictionary of Medicine, were recommended by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  6. Variants ending with -er, -re (center, centre ; niter, nitre ; scepter, sceptre; theater, theatre ; etc.) will be found in alphabetical order under the different authorities in Appendix A.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 Except in law, where the suffix -or is preferred.
  8. Puerto Rico (the form adopted by the Board on Geographic Names) is often spelled Porto Rico.
  9. "Shakspere is scholarly, as —The New Shakspere Society." (Dr. J. A. H. Murray.) This is the spelling of the Century dictionary, but if the compositor or reader finds Shakespeare or any other form in the copy of an educated writer, that form should be repeated. The preferred adjective suffix is -ian, not -ean (i.e. Shaksperian, not Shaksperean).
  10. The New English Dictionary of the Philological Society, edited by Dr. J. A. H. Murray, and commonly known as "the Oxford," probably will not be finished before the year 1910. For present use Stormonth and the Imperial are the only complete and authoritative dictionaries of modern British spellings. A comparative list of different spellings in these dictionaries is given in Appendix A.
  11. 11.0 11.1 These spellings are preferred also by the Century, Standard, and Worcester. Webster prefers glamour, but omits the u in enamour.
  12. The u is frequently omitted when the termination -ous is added to any of the -our words, as in clamorous, dolorous, humorous, laborious, odorous, rancorous, rigorous, valorous, vaporous, vigorous. In many words derived from nouns ending in -our the u is omitted, as in armory, colorable, honorary, invigorate, invigoration. There are a few English authors of authority who prefer clamor, pallor, and tremor, but English usage is largely in favor of the retention of the u.

    Saviour, as the synonym of Christ, retains the u in all dictionaries but that of Webster. "Aiming to write according to the best usage of the present day, I insert the u in so many of these words as now seem most familiar to the eye when so written. ... If this book should ever, by any good fortune, happen to be reprinted, after honour, labour, favour, behaviour, and endeavour shall have become as unfashionable as authour, errour, terrour, and emperour are now, let the proofreader strike out the useless letter not only from these words, but from all others which shall bear an equally antiquated appearance." Goold Brown's Grammar of English Grammars, p. 197.

  13. The American Philological Association has published (in Transactions, 1886, and in the periodical Spelling of 1887) a list of amended spellings. This list is reprinted, with some slight corrections, in the Century dictionary (vol. viii).
  14. From Cornwall, England:

    "R. G———, Surgin, Parish Clark and Skule-master, Groser and Hundertaker, respectably informs ladys and gentlemen that he drors teeth without wateing a minut, applies laches every hour, blisters on the lowest terms, and visicks for a penny apece. As times is crul bad I begs to tell 'ee that I have just beginned to sell all zorts of stationary ware, cox, hens, vowls. pigs and all other kinds of poultry. I as also laid in a large azzortment of trype, dog's mate, lolipops, ginger-beer and matches, and other pikkels, such as hepson salts, hoysters and winzer sope."