adviser or advisor

Someone asked today in a comment whether “documentor” or “documenter” is correct. The correct word is “documenter.” The question got me wondering, though, about another spelling dilemma: “adviser” or “advisor.”

According to the Cambridge Guide to English Usage (Pam Peters, 2004):

Both these spellings are in current use, though adviser is the dominant spelling in both the US and the UK. The ratio in American data from CCAE is 20:1 and in British data from the BNC it’s 6:1. Curiously, advisor is sometimes said to be “the American spelling.” Whatever its past, advisor is registered alongside adviser in major British, American, Canadian and Australian dictionaries.

The Columbia Guide to Standard American Usage tersely states, Both spellings are Standard.

For this word, my preference is to go with common usage and write “adviser.”

This entry was posted in spelling. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

16 Responses to adviser or advisor

  1. A. Duenas says:

    Please CORRECT the fourteenth word in this webpage:
    See the mistake between ***:
    Someone asked today in a comment whether “documentor” or “documenter” is correct. The ***corect*** word is “documenter.”

  2. Karl says:

    Thanks for catching that typo! It’s fixed now.

  3. Motti says:

    According to Google the common spelling is advisor with 78,700,000 search results compared to adviser’s 33,800,000

  4. kris says:

    There are a lot of non native English on the Internet. Most of them tend to use advisor, whereas the native English speakers that I have met tend to use adviser.

  5. Germ says:

    I’m a native English speaker (American) and I’ve never come across the spelling “adviser”.
    I’m no scholar, but I’m fairly well read and it just looks wrong (like memorise, aluminium or defence) so I would place this spelling in the British camp.
    For example, I’m a Financial Advisor.
    If my business cards stated I was a “Financial Adviser” my clients, colleagues and prospects would think I was illiterate and my business would be damaged.
    It would do me little good to point out that a dictionary says they’re both correct or that “advisor” is incorrect.
    It has become correct, on this side of the pond anyhow. I’ll even go so far as to predict that “adviser” has become incorrect as an American spelling and future editions of the dictionaries will reflect this.
    Of course we’ll always treat it like a quaint spelling. Americans love to spell things like: theatre, centre, mediaeval & draught, but we always do so with a sense of novelty.
    We love the Brits, we think of them as our cranky, old grandfathers with all their funny words, top hats and monocles. Who or whom? Whom cares grandpa! Nice spats!

  6. rokianokia says:

    As Vampire Weekend says,
    “So if there’s any other way
    To spell the word
    It’s fine with me, with me”

  7. Matt says:

    I find it pertinent to mention that the associated press actually prohibits the use of the word “advisor” in their publications. This is predominantly for consistency between the two and not merely a stance on which one is “correct.” I would tend to agree with you that “adviser” just looks odd. After all, the American language does not allow “acter” or “docter” or (the nail in the coffin) “superviser.”
    Just my two cents!

  8. MThorne says:

    I’ll add my two cents: I’m 47 years old, born and raised in the US, ALWAYS REMEMERED that the word in question here was spelled with ‘-or’ at the end in anything I read here in the US ( I don’t know about in the UK). One memory is of talking to high school, college or academic ‘advisors’ (‘-or’ spelling)of mine throughout the late 1970’s to the early 90’s. I would also wager that US news stories from the 1960’s through the 1990’s that referred to ‘help’ given by US military to other countries (Vietnam onward…) included the term military ‘advisors’ — again, with the usual ‘-or’ spelling. ONLY RECENTLY, I’d say in the last 3 years or so, do I notice that the ‘adviser’ spelling is beginning to be used in job descriptions cited in development websites that I access. So, why the change?? I’m open to it, but am just curious as to how and why, if anyone knows or can guess???

  9. Ed says:

    Aha, Germ, you mention the American problem with noun forms having a “c” versus an “s” (e.g. advice versus advise). British English very usefully uses a “c” for the nounal forms of a word. E.g. a banker can be said to “advise someone” or “give advice to someone”. Doctors “work in a medical practice” and “practise medicine” (latter being a rather scary use of practise in this context). While British English may seem as cranky, in instances such as these it helps convey the meanings with less ambiguity. There are some instances where American English improves upon British English. The absence of the nounal “c” form in American English represents a regrettable loss of clarity, particularly in abbreviated language uses (e.g. SMS messaging, summary presentations, etc.).
    In relation to the subject at hand, I used to work in an Arab bank with an American boss who recommended that we call ourselves “financial advisors” on our business cards, rather than “advisers”. He was a Yale educated honours graduate who had majored in English. His reasoning was that “although ‘advisers’ is more commonplace, ‘advisors’ looks and sounds a bit smarter.” Incidentally, the majority of the British bankers preferred “adviser” but recognised “advisor” as a legitimate spelling. We adopted this spelling, and it seems to be the dominant one among financial types. (Thankfully my boss did not feel the same about ‘utilize’ sounding better than ‘use’, the former being incorrectly used all too frequently, perhaps by those wishing to sound posh or clever.

  10. ~Heather W~ says:

    This has been driving me absolutely batty, because Firefox’s built in spell checker insists “advisor” is a misspelling of “adviser.” Since half the emails I write using Firefox include my title – which includes the world “advisor” – I was starting to think perhaps my association was just behind the times in which is the contemporary spelling. I shall now happily add it to Firefox’s (normally quite accurate) dictionary.

  11. Hank Browne says:

    Some may think Google will be the final arbiter of this issue.
    Advisor: 82 million hits.
    Adviser: 28 million hits.

  12. Alex says:

    The Financial Times in the UK uses Adviser, which I would have assumed correct, it wasn’t until my new job title said I would become an Advisor that I looked into this. It seems the US ‘version’ if you like is Advisor, but both are acceptable to use in the UK. Although Adviser would seem to be everyone in the UK’s first guess at its spelling!!

  13. Tim says:

    Advisor goes with advisory – a typical description of the financial relationship the intermediaries prefer today (vs. sales) and the legal description of a firm that invests for clients and is organized under the ’40 Act.
    The -er vs -or spelling of similar English words seems to be rather random, I wonder if anyone can articulate a general rule here?

  14. J B says:

    I’m a born and bred English speaker (albeit from New Zealand). Kiwis tend to use British spelling quite religiously, perhaps even moreso that the British.
    “Adviser” simply looks wrong to me. And I do think that the predominance of “advisor” in Google pages is significant. Yes there are plenty of non-native English speakers in the world, but the truth is that the vast majority of English text on the internet is still written by native speakers.
    Both the “-er” prefixes can be added to verbs to convey “one that …”. I tried think of similar words in the hope of finding consistency (a vain hope in a language with such diverse sources as English). I have also worked as a tutor (not a tuter) for foreign-language students, and my educated guess is if they were unsure they would be much more likely to go for “adviser”.
    Nevertheless there are plenty of English words using the “-or” endin which I think there would be little debate about which is more correct, or at least vastly more common…
    * actor (one who acts)
    * tutor (one who provides tuition)
    * elevator (that which elevates)
    * divisor (that which divides)
    That last one in particular I think provides strong support for an “-or” spelling. One would not write “diviser” – that looks really odd. So why “adviser”?

  15. Rick says:

    Does that mean that “administrator” should now be “administrater.” That just seems wrong, and if it’s wrong here it should be wrong there as well.