You may know what a “check” is, but have you heard of a “cheque”? These words sound identical when spoken, but we don’t use the spelling “cheque” in American English. And that is a recipe for typos if you’re writing for an audience outside North America! Luckily, we’re here to help!
Check in American English
We’ll start with “check.” In American English, this word has many uses as a verb and a noun. As a verb, its most common uses include:
Examine for accuracy (e.g., I will check your spelling)
Look for something (e.g., He checked his pockets)
Stop or restrain (e.g., We must check the spread of typos in writing)
The act of checking something (e.g., Give it one last check before you go)
A pattern of criss-crossing lines (e.g., I wear a check shirt)
A way of making payments from a bank account (e.g., I will pay by check)
The tick mark (i.e., the “✓” symbol)
A chess move (e.g., I will have you in check next turn)
The key point here is that “check” is the correct spelling in all cases in American English. And this makes it easy to remember! But what about other English dialects, like British English? Let’s take a look.
Cheque in British English (A Bank Order)
In British English, and other English dialects influenced by British English, people use the spelling “cheque” for the method of payment mentioned above:
British English:We accept payment by cash and cheque, not credit card.
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American English: We accept payment by cash and check, not credit card.
In all other cases, from examining something for accuracy to the chess move, British English uses “check” just like American English.
Summary: Check or Cheque?
This is simple if you’re using American English! For all the noun and verb uses mentioned above, we use the spelling “check.” This makes it easy to remember!
However, if you’re writing for an audience outside North America, you may need to know the difference between “check” and “cheque”:
A cheque is a written order to pay a sum of money (e.g., I will pay by cheque).
The spelling check is correct in all other cases mentioned above.
As long as you remember the financial meaning of “cheque,” then, it should be easy to avoid errors when using these terms in your writing.