“Gray” and “grey” are two different spellings of the same word. But should you be writing about a “gray wolf” or a “grey wolf”? Are your main character’s eyes “gray” or “grey”? In this post, we will look at when to use each spelling.
American English vs. The Rest of the World: Gray or Grey?
The question of which spelling to use mostly comes down to dialect:
Outside the US, the standard spelling is usually “grey.”
Both spellings refer to the color between black and white, but the “gray” spelling is the one to use when in the US. However, for most other English dialects, including British English, the correct spelling is “grey”:
American English: The gray dress shrank in the wash.
British English: The grey dress shrank in the wash.
Australian English: The grey dress shrank in the wash.
To remember this, can keep in mind that spelling “gray” with an “a” is standard in America, while “grey” with an “e” is favored in England.
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Exceptions: Proper Names, Greyhounds and Science
There are two situations where you would use “grey” in American English:
Proper names (e.g., Earl Grey tea or Greyhound Buses)
The greyhound (i.e., the dog breed)
In these cases, we’re not referring to the color “gray.” As such, it would be incorrect to use the “a” spelling, even if we were using American English.
Similarly, though, we would always use the “a” spelling for the scientific unit of measurement gray, or for proper names like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, even if we were writing for an audience outside the US.
Summary: Gray or Grey?
While both refer to the color between black and white, there is a key difference between these spellings:
Gray is the standard spelling in American English.
Grey is the standard spelling in British English.
The only exceptions in American English are when we’re not referring to the color “grey” (e.g., if someone’s surname is “Grey” or in the word “greyhound”). In every other case, “gray” will be correct if you’re writing for a US audience.
If you’d like to be sure your spelling is perfect, though, why not submit a document for proofreading today?