Q&A: Enrol vs enroll

Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, we're going straight to L…

Q: Hey AWC, someone tried to correct me when I wrote that they should “enrol in one of your courses”…

A: But it sounds like such good advice!

Q: I know right? Anyway, they said it should be “enroll” – with two Ls??

A: Hmmm. Are they from America?

Q: How did you know?

A: Because that’s how they spell it there, obviously. 

Q: How unusual – I thought they normally drop unnecessary letters.

A: True, that’s their usual M.O.

Q: Hey, remind me what “M.O.” means again?

A: Read as “emm-oh” – it stands for the Latin “Modus Operandi” – meaning “a particular way or method of doing something”. You typically see it a lot when describing a serial killer. 

Q: That makes sense with the way that America is bludgeoning English to death…

A: Now, now… this is an ever evolving language. No one is wrong or right.

Q: Except that “enrol” just makes more sense.

A: Does it? If you roll down a hill, then you have rolled or are rolling. Americans are applying the same logic with “enroll”. You’ll find they evolved other base words in a similar fashion, such as distill, enthrall and fulfill – whereas everywhere else including Australia went with distil, enthral and fulfil.

Q: But even we spell it “distilled”, “enthralling”, “fulfilled” and so on, with two Ls, right?

A: That’s right.

Q: My head hurts.

A: If you think that’s bad, check out “install”. Most people have switched to using the double-L version these days, yet non-American speakers still spell “instalments” with one L, while America goes with “installments”. The same happens with “skill” and “skilful” vs “skillful”.

Q: This is cruel.

A: You’ll be glad to know that this quirk only seems to happen with -MENT and -FUL. 

Q: But what about how Americans take “travel” and say “traveling” with just one L, while we say “travelling”?

A: Well, they’d say that they’re continuing to be consistent. Before they were going from double to double and now they’re doing the same with single-L. Other American examples include “model/modeling”, “cancel/canceling” or “quarrel/quarreled”. We’ve actually spoken about their broader L-usage before so won’t go into that further now.

Q: So to recap – only in America they say “enroll”, “enrolls”, “enrolling”, “enrolled” and “enrollments” yeah?

A: That’s right – they’re “LL cool” throughout. Whereas outside the US it’s less consistent, opting for “enrol”, “enrols”, “enrolling”, “enrolled” and “enrolments”. 

Q: I always wonder ‘aboot’ how Canada gets on in these situations, aye?

A: Haha. In this case they prefer “enrol”, but being so close to the USA, they list “enroll” as a variant and typically both are accepted.

Q: I’ve just thought of something… Is that why AWC has “BOOK NOW” on their course pages and not “ENROL NOW”? To stop Americans politely trying to correct us every five minutes?

A: Actually yeah, it’s one of the reasons! 

Q: I’ll let my friend know that it’s safe – just be sure to “rol” out the red carpet!

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!

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