Do you realise or realize? Choosing S or Z

in Back to basics

This is a bit of a vexed area – should you write realise or realize? Should you use ‘s’ spellings or ‘z’ spellings?

For some British people, reading “Do you realize what the problem is?” is likely to set off a nervous reaction and a quick rant about the Americanis/zation of English. It’s perhaps best not to tell them that the ‘z’ spelling has been in use in English writing since the Middle Ages. Because most people think the ‘s’ spelling is the English spelling and the ‘z’ spelling is the American one. And broadly speaking, these days, that’s right.

With that in mind, my advice is, as always, to think about your audience. If your target market is primarily an American one, I’d choose the ‘z’ spelling – you want to be using the version that the biggest proportion of your audience will be comfortable with. If you’re writing primarily for a British market, I’d choose the ‘s’ spelling.

But the most important point? Whichever version you choose, choose it consistently. Writing “Do you realize how difficult it is to criticise constructively?” is the worst of all worlds.

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