I was taught to write using the Oxford rules -ize ending at school and besides, I have a biased reason for liking the letter Z because of my name (Zoë)! Not only that, but the -ize spelling is closer to the way we say such words. Lately though, the -ise ending (from French) has become more popular; in the last few decades, since I’ve been either studying or working with language, I’ve slowly had to change my use of the suffix for the majority of UK clients (and for those elsewhere wanting to localize for the UK). It is perhaps seen as a more “British” way of writing than the older -ize (from Greek via Latin), which can be mistaken for an Americanism.
Even the Wiki article on this subject begins by writing that UK English -ize is the same as US -ize. There are three systems in English for the use of the suffix -ize or -ise. In UK English, we have two valid systems: -ize or -ise in words such as realize/realise and standardize/standardise. In US English it’s -ize only. For all three systems, any words that are not from Greek always use -ise, such as exercise, advise and surprise. There is one real difference: in the use of -yse and -yze endings. Words with Greek roots that end in -yse are never spelt -yze in UK English, such as analyse and paralyse. However, US English uses the suffix -yze in words from Greek, such as analyze and paralyze.
So, perhaps using -ise is an easier way for Brits to do it, as we don’t have to remember the exceptions to the rule? Use the right system for your target audience and, so long as you stick to that system consistently in one piece of writing, it’s “correct” (I use that term carefully with regard to language, see Why is Language so Important?).
Whichever system is used, none is wrong. I do find, however, that if I’m localizing US text to UK English, the client (from anywhere in the world) requires the -ise system to be implemented. Or, if not specified at the outset, they would view the localization as below par due to my keeping in the “American” -ize spellings. As a result, I always check with the client before starting a project. On the other hand, if a global English is desired, I would recommend using the UK -ize endings since they suit both UK and US spellings in the majority of cases, and it is these two varieties of English that have spread across the world.
English has become so widespread that it is now considered a world language. It can be seen in advertising campaigns around the world, television interviews with politicians from Spain to Singapore are conducted with ease in English, and the BBC closed its German service after 60 years because its German listeners prefer the English version.
When English is taught as a foreign language, the same grammar, phonology and vocabulary are used globally (those of standard UK, or sometimes US, English). But across the world, the majority of teaching is done by non-native speakers to non-native speakers in a different cultural situation, who are often unlikely ever to come across a native speaker. So the appropriateness of standard UK/US English has to be considered and the possibility of a global standard English raised.
Dictionaries and phrasebooks can give the impression that there is one, fixed variety of English. While standard UK/US English exists to an extent, there are many varieties. Although creating a global standard English may be a good idea in theory, the problem is that since global English is so diverse, certain set norms would still have to be chosen for a standard language and it would be difficult to justify these new norms as being any “better” than those of UK/US English or any other English variety for that matter. Finding a totally neutral variety is almost impossible.
Here’s a summary of the three systems:
1. UK English
(or Oxford spelling, as in the Oxford English Dictionary’s spelling rules)
>> Use -ize in words such as organize, magnetize, generalization.
>> Any words that are not from Greek always use -ise. These are mainly words from French roots, such as exercise, advise and surprise.
>> Words with Greek roots that end in -yse are never spelt -yze in UK English (in contrast to US English), such as analyse,
2. UK English
>> Use -ise in words such as organise,
>> Any words that are not from Greek always use -ise. These are mainly words from French roots, such as exercise, advise and
>> Words with Greek roots that end in -yse are never spelt -yze in UK English (in contrast to US English), such as analyse, paralyse.
3. US English
>> Use -ize in words such as organize,
>> As with both UK English systems, any words not from Greek always use -ise (such as exercise, advise and surprise).
>> Unlike the UK systems, US English uses the suffix -yze in words from Greek such as analyze and paralyze.