Students sometimes ask me what the difference between British English and American English is?
There are many differences but remember that these are small and
unimportant. After all, English is English. British and American have
much more in common than they have that separates them.
The biggest differences occur at the colloquial level. In formal and academic writing the two varieties are almost indistinguishable.
Let’s look at the aspects. The biggest differences are in:
1. Vocabulary – torch (UK) vs flashlight (US)
2. Phonology – the rhotic r, e.g.
The smallest differences are in:
3. Grammar and Style e.g. the use of shall
4. Spelling and Punctuation – ‘ize’
In some ways British is more traditional. In other ways
English uses grammar, vocabulary, and sounds which British people would
have used centuries ago.
The fifth dimension overlapping all of these points, encompasses sociolinguistic usage and is observable in the trait of British speakers to use indirect (including polite) forms and a heavier emphasis on rhetorical tropes notably irony and sarcasm, as well as a tendency to use more elaborate, polysyllabic vocabulary. This can have the effect of certain British speakers enjoying a prestige or pompous quality when speaking among Americans. On the other side of the coin, Americans can appear pithy and down to earth when speaking among Brits. These differences are fairly subtle and hardly recognisable to someone unfamiliar with transatlantic cultural nuances.