An Americanism is a word or expression in English that is common in America but rare elsewhere. Some have entered the general English language, such as okay, geek, teenager, radio and blurb. Others have not, such as gasoline, airplane and homerun.
Avoid Americanisms. If you use them to show you know them, you will become tiresome. If you use them because you think everyone knows them, you will not always be understood. As dialect they should be avoided.
Because of American television and film, American English is one of the more familiar dialects of English throughout the world. Yet, outside North America, British English is still better known. American English may no longer even be the largest dialect: Indian English has or will soon have more speakers.
The Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries will tell you which words and expressions are American, while the Merriam-Webster and American Heritage dictionaries will not. A good dictionary will tell you that “airplane” is American and “aeroplane” is British.
When you write do not assume that your readers:
- Know baseball or American football.
- Follow American television.
- Live in a place where the north is cold and July is in the summer.
- Know much about Christian holidays or beliefs.
- Have schools divided into grades.
- Know any of the 50 American states beyond the largest ones.
- Know about pounds, inches, gallons and so on.
You can assume that most readers will know the top Hollywood films and how much an American dollar is.
Spelling: Instead of
honour, recognise, analyse, theatre, likeable, traveller, fulfil, dialogue, practise, burnt and haemorrhage
honor, recognize, analyze, theater, likable, traveler, fulfill, dialog, practice, burned, and hemorrhage
But such differences are slight and cause little confusion. Of these -ize is acceptable everywhere.
Some words have a different meaning in America than elsewhere. For example:
American English English biscuit scone college university corn maize cot camp bed dinner evening meal first floor ground floor football American football gas petrol homely ugly pants trousers school school or university subway metro, the underground
These words are American though few Americans know it:
American English English airplane aeroplane candy sweets cellphone mobile phone checkers draughts disk disc (except in computers) drugstore pharmacy faucet tap figure out work out math mathematics movie film movie theater cinema oatmeal porridge parking lot parking spaces or garage quarter of ten quarter to ten raise children bring up children railroad station rail station retiree retired person shades blinds sneakers trainers soda pop soft drink storey floor vacation holiday
Some Americanisms are needlessly long or self-important:
American English English African-American black access get additionally and automobile car constituency supporters corporation company critique criticise deliver on a promise keep a promise due to because family unit family head up head hemorrhage lose blood horseback riding riding (horses) impact affect in-depth deep meet with meet nation country outside of outside parameters limits perception belief sport game teach school teach the military the army transportation transport underdeveloped backward underprivileged poor
The moral: as always, plain, simple English is best.