When you type up your essay and carry out editing, you want to be sure that your spelling and grammar aren’t going to let you down. Sloppy presentation and bad spelling, can make the reader concerned that if you’ve paid so little attention to your English usage, what other mistakes have you made during your essay editing?

But sometimes there is a spelling that even the experts can disagree on. The choice of whether to use -ize or –ise at the ends of some words is a topic that, surprisingly perhaps, stirs up plenty of feeling.
Essay editing decisionsEssay editing: ‘-ize’ or ‘-ise’

Whether to use ‘-ize’ or ‘-ise’ at the end of words can cause students confusion. Speaking to UK students, many of them reply that they don’t use ‘-ize’ because it is an Americanism. Stop right there! Here are the facts about this spelling dilemma:-

  • The ‘-ize’ spelling has been used in England since the 16th century. Shakespeare, John Donne and the King James Bible all used ‘-ize’.
  • Another reason why the ‘-ize’ ending was popular is that what we say is a z sound, rather than an s sound.
  • The ‘-ize’ ending is closer to the Greek origins of the spelling, ‘-izo’.
  • However, there are some words that look very unusual when you use ‘-ize’. Imagine seeing advize or exercize in a book. You may like the ‘-ize’ ending, but don’t stretch it to the point where your language does indeed begin to look as though you are living in the 16th century!
  • The ‘-ise’ ending has been taken from the French and started to come into popular use in Britain in the 19th century.

Essay structure

Both ‘-ise’ and ‘-ize’ are correct to use, but here are some pointers for deciding which one to use in your essays:-

  • You may prefer ‘-ize’, but if your tutor uses ‘-ise’ stick to that at least when writing work for them. You don’t want to irritate them when they are marking your essays. If necessary, ask them before you start your essay, so that you can present the work as they prefer.
  • Remember, once you have made the choice, stick to that spelling throughout the essay. Make your choice consistent.

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