When you’re using the -ize spelling rather than -ise, there are some words that retain the -ise ending nevertheless. How can you tell?
The simplest way is to see if there’s an -ization form of the word. If there’s no such word, it keeps the S even when you’re using the -ize spelling (someone will maybe come up with an exception, but it’s a good rule of thumb):
- civilize, realize, santize, organize
No problem with civilization, realization, sanitization and organization, so these words can be spelled with a Z
- appetiser, circumcise, advise, advertiser
You can’t have appetization, circumcization, advization or advertization and so these words retain the S
- and various short words like rise, prise, raise and praise, of course
While we’re on the subject, please note that it’s not simply that the Z is American usage, as the Dutch often seem to be taught. It’s fine in British usage too – just choose one and stick to it, and if you get an editor who wants the other simply let them get on with it.
Prevalence: low. The most common issue for -ize/-ise is just that people mix the two up in the same document, which is bad style.
Frequency: medium. Someone who isn’t clear on this will generally make the same mistake multiple times.
Native: rarely. Though American spelling will occasionally include an incorrect Z.
One thought on “When isn’t it -ize?”
Can we have your thoughts about “burglarize”, “at a great rate of speed”, “arugula”, “you guys/y’all”, in fact I feel an entire new series coming on… The use of “veryvery” by UK tv presenters… Why do we say “mictie”, but you say micturition? Why is a verruca specifically a foot wart in UK usage, when it just means wart? Ah, language, endless source of mystery and fascination…