Word Choice – Centre Versus Center

Susan’s question: “I had a discussion the other day about the word ‘center/centre.’  I was under the impression that ‘centre’ was a noun and ‘to center’ something was the verb. But I was told that it was grammatically correct to use ‘centred.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: The word centre comes from the Latin centrum meaning “stationary point.” When it was adopted into English use, centrum was pronounced center but because of the spelling of the original word, the r and e were never turned around.

Nowadays, center is the spelling in American English; centre is preferred in Canadian, British, Indian, and Australian English.

Note: I have noticed in some places in the U.S. – particularly shopping malls – that the spelling centre is used. I assume it is to imply that the location is the main point in the area.

I was also taught that in the verb form, you spell it “center.” However, The Canadian Press CP CAPS and Spelling book lists “centred” and “centring.” The Oxford Dictionary also uses the same spelling but does offer “centered” as a variant.

Examples (correct)

Center the address on the middle of the envelope. (American English)
To golf well, you must remain centred. (Canadian, British, Indian and Australian English)
I recommend centring the number on the page. (Canadian, British, Indian and Australian English)

I pity anyone trying to learn English today. Next week’s BizWritingTip will explain why the spelling of some English words is different in the U.S.