“Cancelled” Is Canceled

March 16, 2020 | 2

Welcome to Do You Copy, a semi-regular column on copyediting (copy editing? copy-editing?) that investigates some of the editorial life’s deepest mysteries. When is an en dash a better hyphen than a hyphen? Why are there so many stylebooks? Should we give a dang about the interrobang!? Learn the answers to these questions and more, and prepare for punctuation pedantry.

The word “cancel” is very popular these days. So-called cancel culture has been in full swing for a while, and with the new coronavirus affecting pretty much everything in our world right now, all kinds of things are getting canceled. Yep. That’s right. One “l.”

Circumstances, therefore, demand that your favorite friendly neighborhood copy dork—eat your heart out, Benjamin Dreyer!—speak up to settle things once and for all: If you are writing in American English, “canceled” and “canceling” are spelled with one “l,” but “cancellation” is spelled with two. This is, of course, unless you work at The New Yorker, where the style guide is both a sexy renegade and very incorrect.

That’s right, folks! Whether it’s a bad man or a public event you’re canceling, be sure to do it with impeccable spelling and fewer wasted letters. And if you disagree, please feel free to challenge me to a duel, to be held sometime when all the events aren’t getting canceled. (One “l.”) We can even film it, and call it L-raisers.

Or, of course, you can ignore me and go ahead spelling it “kåñçèŁ’d” or some such madness. It’s just copy, after all. Go nuts! Who cares!? Just please stay inside!!

Image Credit: Pixabay.

is digital editor and associate news editor at Publishers Weekly and co-founder and editor of The Dot and Line. He has written for New York magazine, Esquire, Pacific Standard, Thrillist, Paste, Polygon, and Real Simple, among others.


  1. I’m an old man and was taught spelling in the age of phonics. I was taught the rule was when a word ended in a consonant, you doubled the consonant and added “ed.” But I see “canceled” all over the place, mostly in airports, so I looked it up. My dictionary reports that either spelling is correct.

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