Both acknowledgment and acknowledgement emerge throughout the English-speaking world, but acknowledgment, with no middle e, is favored in American English, while acknowledgement is favored outside North America. These preferences spread to the plural forms, acknowledgements and acknowledgments also.
In the United States and Canada, acknowledgement appears roughly once for every two instances of acknowledgment.
The proportion is the other way around in British and Australian publications, at least the ones who make their content searchable online.
So, wherever you are writing, both formats are familiar enough to be considered acceptable, but it may be safer to just stick with the one that your readers are more likely to consider accurate.
Definition of “Acknowledgment”
Acknowledgment means to admit that you understand or accept the conditions of something. The implied acknowledgment of information or actions.
History of “Acknowledgement”
Acknowledgment (now considered the American spelling) was preferred in all varieties of English up until recently. It’s not necessarily older, as examples of both spellings can be located easily in texts since the word joined the language – in the 16th century.
But British writers once preferred acknowledgment by a wide margin, and that form gave way to the lengthier spelling toward the end of the 20th century.
When to Use It
It’s often easily confusing because the spelling differences are just one letter. But there are honestly a ton of confusables like this, so don’t worry if you don’t know the difference.
Use the word acknowledgment to show the action of acknowledging or confessing. Individuals usually use the word for owning up to a mistake or revealing a secret–for example:
- Does the vice president deserve our forgiveness after the acknowledgment of his mistakes on air?
You might also use the word to identify someone’s or something’s existence, truth, point, or quality–for example:
- The organization’s acknowledgment of LGBT rights signals a rebranding.
- My grandparents nodded as an acknowledgment of my statement.
Another definition for the word acknowledgment is – an award or token of appreciation–for example:
- The researchers gave him a certificate as an acknowledgment of his participation in the research.
- She doesn’t post about her volunteering activities because she doesn’t want a lot of acknowledgment.
- He’s got a long list of acknowledgments.
The final and most common use of the word is a confirmation that something’s been received–for example:
- This receipt is an acknowledgment of your payment.
- This letter of acknowledgment is given to you for your service.
Does Acknowledgment Have a Plural Form?
Acknowledgment does have a plural form, which is acknowledgments. The noun can be countable or uncountable because you can only employ the plural style in specific contexts.
If you are referring to a passage in a book, article, etc., you may call it acknowledgments or a collection of acknowledgments–for example:
- You’re the first person mentioned in her book’s acknowledgments.
- I’ll be delivering special acknowledgments at the end of the panel.
In general situations, however, acknowledgment is not a countable noun. This format applies to the action of acknowledging something. Use it on a written statement saying a message is received also–for example:
- The customer didn’t get an acknowledgment of his payment.
- The clerk emailed an acknowledgment that they received your transcript from your previous school.
Here are some related words.
Examples of Acknowledgment in a Sentence
Although you can find both forms everywhere, acknowledgment is the correct spelling and is preferred in American and Canadian publications like these:
It seems odd for the author of a book on human genetics and heredity to thank his travel agent in the acknowledgments. [New York Times]
For now, I don’t see it doing much damage; it’s hard to see any bank’s health or reputation being compromised by public acknowledgment of the fact that it borrowed from the Fed during one of the biggest crises in history, and the two-year delay in future disclosure should give a bank plenty of time to sort out whatever forced it to borrow in the first place. [The Economist]
I longed for his attention and acknowledgment. [Globe and Mail]
Outside of North America, acknowledgement is preferred—for example:
But it is also an unspoken acknowledgement that e-readers might not be a quick fix for raising learning achievement. [Guardian]
The Treasurer made the acknowledgement after concerns about weakening Chinese steel demand. [Australian]
Witness Sadie Smith, in the acknowledgements to NW, thanked the internet-blocking software Freedom and SelfControl. [Irish Times]
Gillard has declared the lack of constitutional acknowledgement an “unhealed wound that even now lies open at the heart of our national story”.[The Guardian]
Final Thoughts on Acknowledgment
So, if you’re using the term for content with a primarily US audience, use the spelling acknowledgment. Even though both forms are accepted just about anywhere, the annoying spelling difference is essential. Now that you understand acknowledgment vs. acknowledgement, you can use it confidently!
For more articles on spelling variants, click here!