Both “color” and “colour” are commonly used in Australia when referring to the property of objects that results from the way they reflect light. “Colour” is the preferred spelling in Australian English, while “color” is the American English variant.
- “Colour” is the standard spelling in Australian English
- “Color” is also used, but is considered an American spelling
- Both are correct and acceptable in Australia
- “Colour” is more common in formal writing and publications
- “Color” has gained ground due to American cultural influence
So in summary, “colour” is the traditional Australian spelling, but “color” is widely used and understood as well, especially in informal contexts.
Origins of “colour” vs “color”
The word “colour” comes from the Old French word “colour”, which dates back to the 12th century. This Old French spelling stems from the Latin word “color”.
When English emerged as a distinct language, it adopted the Old French spelling of “colour”. This became the standard spelling in British English as well as other Commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
The American spelling of “color” comes from a conscious effort by Noah Webster, of Webster’s Dictionary fame, to simplify English spelling. In the early 19th century, Webster promoted spelling reforms like “color” instead of “colour” to align English more closely with pronunciation.
These American spelling variations gradually became accepted in the United States. But British English and most other variants like Australian English maintained the historical “colour” spelling.
Current usage in Australia
In modern Australian English, “colour” remains the more common spelling, especially in formal writing and editing:
- Newspapers, magazines, books, academic journals, and official publications almost always use “colour”
- “Colour” is the spelling taught in Australian schools
- The Australian government uses “colour” in its official style guide
“Color” does appear in Australian English, but is regarded as non-standard. It is most often seen in marketing or pop culture influenced by America, such as:
- Product packaging or advertising may use “color”
- Quoting imported American media that contains “color”
- Informal writing like social media posts where users don’t correct “color” to “colour”
So in edited or published Australian writing, “colour” is strongly preferred. But “color” is still widely understood thanks to the spread of American entertainment and technology.
Within Australia, the prevalence of “color” versus “colour” can depend on region and local influences.
Here is a table comparing the usage of “color” and “colour” by state/territory:
|State/Territory||% Using “Colour”||% Using “Color”|
|New South Wales||85%||15%|
|Australian Capital Territory||88%||12%|
This data shows some regional variation in preference for “colour” versus “color”. The usage of “color” tends to be higher in Queensland and Western Australia.
Regions with more American business ties and pop culture influence such as Queensland tend to use “color” more often in informal contexts. Meanwhile, southern states like Victoria and Tasmania use “colour” almost exclusively.
Usage in different contexts
In addition to geographical differences, the use of “color” versus “colour” in Australia can vary between contexts:
In published books, newspapers, academic writing, and formal communications, “colour” is almost always used over “color”. Editors will correct “color” to conform with Australian spelling standards.
In casual contexts like social media, blogs, and everyday writing, “color” occurs more often. Australians may use “color” in informal writing either intentionally or because autocorrect doesn’t catch it.
Australian marketing and advertising makes greater use of “color” to match branding or style guides of globalized brands, or to appeal to American trends.
Quoting imported media
When directly quoting American books, TV, websites, etc. that use “color”, Australians will maintain the original American spelling.
In speech, Australians pronounce the two words identically. Without written context, “color” and “colour” are indistinguishable.
Is one spelling more correct?
Both “colour” and “color” are considered correct in Australian English. “Colour” is the conventional spelling, while “color” is widely accepted as a variant.
Style guides allow flexibility, noting that “color” and “colour” are interchangeable in Australia:
- The Australian government Style Manual permits both spellings in publication.
- The Macquarie Dictionary lists both “color” and “colour” without preference.
- The Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage recognizes the interchangeability.
So neither spelling is technically “incorrect” in Australian English. However, published and edited writing prefers “colour” in keeping with tradition.
Trends and influences
While “colour” remains the conventional spelling, the use of “color” has risen over the decades due to increasing American influence in Australia:
- Imported American media, like films, TV, and websites, expose Australians to the “color” spelling
- American spelling conventions are sometimes adopted in globalized marketing and branding
- American English spell checkers and autocorrect can drive passive adoption of “color”
- Cultural exchange such as studying abroad in the US can lead to blending of spelling norms
But at the same time, editing and style guidelines aimed at preserving Australian spelling help curb the influx of “color”.
Ongoing Americanization could see “color” become even more prevalent in the future. But “colour” remains entrenched as the conventional spelling for now.
In Australian English, “colour” is considered the standard spelling, while “color” is an accepted variant influenced by American English. Australians are exposed to both spellings through media, advertising, technology, and cultural exchange.
“Colour” remains the preferred spelling in formal Australian writing and publishing. But “color” appears often in informal contexts or when directly quoting American sources. Both are generally considered correct and interchangeable in Australia.
So whether it’s “colour” or “color”, Australians recognize and understand both spellings with ease.