I just started reading "The Bourne Supremacy" and I see that in some places Robert Ludlum spells things the British way, and in others the American way. For example, on one page you'd see "favorite" and on another one you'd see "favourite". Or, he spells "color" like "colour", even though he's American. There are also much more things that I won't include here.

Is that a common thing in books written by American authors? Or does this style of writing seem weird?

  • 2
    Authors aren't usually responsible for the spelling in their books, that's the business of publishers and editors. Was it a British edition? Sounds like the editors who changed the spelling from American to British were a little slipshod. And it's not just American authors who can't spell. Shakespeare, a British author, was a famously inconsistent speller, but that was before consistency in spelling became fashionable.
    – user14111
    Mar 5, 2019 at 1:16
  • @user14111 the book doesn't say which edition it is. Thanks for your reply. And what is a British edition anyways, say an American author writes a book, do they translate pickle to gherkin and cookie to biscuit? Mar 5, 2019 at 5:48
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    If you look at the pages in the front of the book you are likely to find some indication of where, when, and by whom it was published and printed. There are no strict rules about what to change for British or American readers, those are editorial decisions. They might well change cookies to biscuits etc. When Harry Potter was translated from British to American, they changed philosopher to sorcerer, although Americans don't really call philosophers sorcerers.
    – user14111
    Mar 5, 2019 at 6:33
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    Is there any distinction between where in the text US and UK spellings are used? I could just about imagine a rationale for speech being in US spelling and narrative in UK spelling.
    – Spagirl
    Mar 5, 2019 at 15:54
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    This version which appears to be the Hachette UK edition, returns no results for 'favorite' and only shows returns spelled 'colour' if you search for 'color' (though it returns fewer 'colour's when you search for 'color' than it does when you search for 'colour', so there is obviously something screwy going on. Can you check some of your numerous examples against that edition and see if it is the same as yours?.
    – Spagirl
    Mar 6, 2019 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


Having searched the 2010 and 2012 Orionbooks.co.uk paperback editions Internet Archive copy of the edition, OP has stated they have an orionbooks.co.uk edition in comments, I am not able to find any occurrences of either 'favorite' or 'color'. The book was first published in the UK in 1986 by Grafton Books and also in paperback in 2004 by Orion.

if the Op is correct in the orionbooks.co.uk edition having a mixture of 'color' and colour', 'favorite' and 'favourite' it seems likely that this was an incomplete 'translation' to British English from US English, in an earlier edition, which has since been changed. It is possible that there was some rationale for the mixture in that edition, such as direct speech by American characters retaining US spellings, but without information as to the specific edition the OP has, and access to it, it is not possible to say more at this stage.

The fact that the situation pertains in the OP's edition but not in the 2010/2012 editions, suggests that the issue is editorial rather than down to Ludlum's own spelling choices.

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