‘ise’ or ‘ize’?

When it comes to writing, one of the best habits to have is consistency. But even more important than that, is accuracy – after all, no one wants to be consistently incorrect (or inconsistently correct, for that matter).

The English language has a lot of quirks, and sometimes these quirks can leave us confused. With British English in particular, a common dilemma is whether to use ‘s’ or ‘z’, ‘ise’ or ‘ize’. For instance, do we write ‘idealise’ or ‘idealize’? Should we realize, finalize, and organize, or realise, finalise and organise?


Let’s theorise/theorize

Neither are wrong, and in fact, both will communicate your message to customers and clients.

The use of ‘-ize’ at the end of some words is part of the house style at Oxford University Press. It reflects the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, where -ize corresponds to the Greek verb endings -izo and –izein.

But to further complicate matters, some verbs must always end in ‘-ise’, which is part of the reason –ise spellings were adopted more widely in British English.

If you want to be accurate, it’s best to stick with ‘s’.

Using ‘s’ where ‘z’ will do is generally the British English way. It’s also is what the Economist Style guide recommends, and here at On Point, it’s what we advise clients to use.

Perception can be just as important as fact, and another reason to go with ‘s’ over ‘z’ when writing to a British audience is that ‘z’ may appear wrong to Brits who have been brought up on an ‘s’, even though technically it is not.

‘Z’ where ‘s’ will do is an Americanisation, one of quite a few spelling differences compared to British English.

So the obvious caveat to the above advice is if you’re writing for a US audience and want to speak their language, so to say.

Whichever you choose, the most important thing to remember is to be consistent.

‘Ise or ize’? – On Point Copywriting editing service

If you would like help being consistently correct in your marketing messaging, give the On Point team a call on 0117 244 0116.

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