I am not here to talk about the difference between American English and British English. Although, I grew up watching BBC programs (Little Women, Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and etc.) and studied British English during elementary and high schools, I have been very much Americanized, considering the years I have spent living in the US. You would think that there should be no trace of British English in my writing or daily conversation. However, you will be surprised to find how deeply ingrained some of the early education has been in my brain. I see this happening to my kids as well. They will adopt whatever language introduced to them first. For instance, if the word “duck” was introduced to them in English first, they will say duck in English and if it was introduced to them in Chinese first, they will say duck in Chinese instead.
Even though I only speak British English for a quarter of my life but American English for more than half of that, I am so used to pronouncing certain words in British English that I have hard time switching the pronunciation to American English. As for my usage and grammar, they gear more towards American English. That said, it does not mean that I would always use one and not the other.
My usage preference actually depends on how deeply ingrained the languages are in my mind. I know that this might have created slight confusion to some of you as it did to my friends and colleagues. I will try to point it out if I catch myself using British English. You probably won’t catch me spelling words such as colour, flavour, centre, axe, fulfil, ageing, catalogue, mediaeval, judgement, jewellery, counselling, programme, cheque, honour, and analyse, or using words such as lift instead of elevator, or biscuit instead of cookie, or torch instead of flashlight, or cinema instead of theater, or trousers instead of pants, or rubber instead of eraser. Anyway, you get the point.
The wonder with MS word is that it automatically highlights words spelt in British English as error spellings. However, there are words harder to detect such as towards vs. toward and words in past participle such as learned vs. learnt. I have preference on some word usage. I like to use the words “towards” and “backwards” instead of “toward” and “backward”. However, I prefer using the word “forward” to “forwards”. Switching between American English and British English isn’t a good practice, as it might create confusion. We have always been told to be consistent, but then haven’t you also been told that old habits die hard?