+44 (0)1273 732 888
Sunburned or sunburnt?
Author : Catie Holdridge
Posted : 19 / 06 / 17
With the summer holidays fast approaching (hooray), there’s a question you might soon find yourself pondering. Perhaps it’ll be when you’re penning a postcard from more tropical climes. ‘Having a lovely time,’ you write. ‘Though I haven’t been able to sit down for two days, as I’ve managed to get terribly sunbur—’
Oh. Hang on. How do you write it? Is it sunburned or sunburnt?
Obviously, you won’t want to spend the rest of your holiday wondering, so let’s settle this one.
The short answer is you’re not really going to get into trouble using either version (though you may get grief from your mum for not slathering on the factor 30). All the dictionaries list both options as perfectly acceptable.
If you’d like a nudge one way or the other – and it’s a very gentle nudge, mind you – you could consider where you’re from, or whether you typically favour (or favor) British English or American English.
If we take a step back and remove the sun- part from the matter, we can look simply at the verb burn. Burn is one those irregular verbs (like spell, learn and dream) with two ways of writing the past tense form. You’ve guessed it: with either a –t or an –ed.
Should it be 'sunburned' or 'sunburnt'? And who hid the sunscreen? Find out one of the answers @EmphasisWriting Click To Tweet
And as we’ve seen before, where there’s a choice between an –ed and a –t ending, American English tends to favour –ed. The –t ending is seen as more of a British thing.
But this is far from a hard-and-fast rule: you’ll find exceptions on both sides of the Atlantic (and beyond). Essentially, just like your choice of holiday destination, in the end it’s up to you. As with any style choice, though, once you’ve chosen, it’s always good to stay consistent.
Now that’s all sorted, it’s still probably best that you go and stock up on sunscreen. Better safe and all that.
Image credit: Yellowj / Shutterstock
Catie joined Emphasis in 2008 with an English literature and creative writing degree under her belt. Having researched and written dozens of articles for the Emphasis blog, she now knows more about the intricacies of effective professional writing than she ever thought possible.
She produced and co-wrote our online training programme, Emphasis 360, and these days oversees all the Emphasis marketing efforts. And she keeps office repartee at a suitably literary level.
Posted by: Jacob Funnell
04 / 11 / 16
Two of the most commonly confused words in the English language are ‘stationary‘ and ‘stationery‘. It may come as a surprise that they are separate words, but they are different – ‘stationary’ and ‘stationery’ mean entirely different things, even though they happen to be spelled in a very similar way. So what’s the difference? And, more importantly, […]
Posted by: Catie Holdridge
02 / 09 / 15
Signing off an email with ‘Love and kisses’ tends to be frowned upon in business correspondence. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways you can show your reader you care. Or excellent reasons why you might. The power to make an email’s recipient (or, indeed, anyone) a bit happier is within all our grasps, […]
Advice and tips (161)
Choose your words wisely (46)
Plain English (27)
Language abuse (22)
60-second fix (21)
Report writing (20)
Bids and tenders (19)
Reader-centred writing (17)
Psychology and linguistics (17)
Online and social media (15)
News from Emphasis (12)
Technical writing (12)
International issues (11)
Presentations and speeches (10)
Customer relations (9)
Numbers and finance (9)
Design and formatting (9)
Letters and CVs (8)
Courses for companies (7)
Writing for media (5)
Literacy and education (5)
Legal writing (4)
Writing news stories (4)
Style guide (4)
Development of English (4)
PDF downloads (3)
Pitches and proposals (2)
Conferences and exhibitions (2)
Book reviews (1)