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!