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Today's British English spellings mostly follow Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), while many American English spellings follow Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language ("ADEL", "Webster's Dictionary", 1828).Webster was a proponent of English spelling reform for reasons both philological and nationalistic.In A Companion to the American Revolution (2008), John Algeo notes: "it is often assumed that characteristically American spellings were invented by Noah Webster.He was very influential in popularizing certain spellings in America, but he did not originate them.Rather […] he chose already existing options such as center, color and check on such grounds as simplicity, analogy or etymology".Webster did attempt to introduce some reformed spellings, as did the Simplified Spelling Board in the early 20th century, but most were not adopted.In Britain, the influence of those who preferred the Norman (or Anglo-French) spellings of words proved to be decisive.Many of the differences between American and British English date back to a time when spelling standards had not yet developed.
A "British standard" began to emerge following the 1755 publication of influential dictionaries such as Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, and an "American standard" started following the work of Noah Webster, and in particular his An American Dictionary of the English Language.
Webster's efforts at spelling reform were somewhat effective in his native country, resulting in certain well-known patterns of spelling differences between the American and British varieties of English.
But English-language spelling reform has rarely been adopted otherwise, and thus modern English orthography varies somewhat between countries and is far from phonemic in any country.
Extract from the Orthography section of the first edition (1828) of Webster's "ADEL", which popularized the "American standard" spellings of -er (6); -or (7); the dropped -e (8); -or (10); -se (11); and the doubling of consonants with a suffix (15).
In the early 18th century, English spelling was inconsistent.