• 3-minute read
  • 7th May 2020

Spelling Tips: Focused or Focussed?

‘Focused’ and ‘focussed’ are simply variant spellings of the same term. The most common version is ‘focused’ (one ‘s’), but both are accepted spellings and you will see both in published writing. So, which one should you use in your work? In this post, we explain everything you need to know.

What Does ‘Focused’ Mean?

‘Focused/focussed’ has a couple of key meanings. The first is as the past tense of the verb ‘focus’. For instance, we could say:

We focused/focussed on correcting the spelling in the document.

The second is as an adjective meaning ‘clear’ or ‘concentrated’:

The expertly focused/focussed image made the culprit easy to spot.

She had a focused/focussed approach to training.

As shown above, you can use either spelling for either definition. However, ‘focused’ is the most common variant, so it is usually the best choice.

Why Two Spellings?

The two spellings of this term are a result of the doubling up rule and English spelling reform crashing into one another.

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The doubling up rule states that the final letter of some words should be doubled when you add a vowel suffix. Usually, this only applies to a two-syllable word when the final syllable is stressed. ‘Focus’ doesn’t fit this pattern, but the final ‘s’ was often doubled anyway (e.g. focussed, focussing).

However, the trend to simplify English spelling, especially in American English, has sometimes involved dropping this extra letter, like in ‘focused’. And while some people assume it is only an American English spelling, it is by far the more popular spelling worldwide.

Use of 'focused' and 'focussed' in English.
Use of ‘focused’ and ‘focussed’ in English.

Most dictionaries still recognise the double ‘s’ spelling ‘focussed’, too, so it isn’t wrong to use it. But it is much rarer in modern writing, especially in American English, which almost always favours ‘focused’.

Summary: Focused or Focussed?

‘Focused’ and ‘focussed’ are two spellings of the same word:

  • Focused (one ‘s’) is the standard spelling of this term in modern English.
  • Focussed (with a double ‘s’) is a rare variant spelling, although it is more common in Australian and British English than it is in American English.

In short, then, it is usually best to stick with ‘focused’. However, most dictionaries accept the double ‘s’ spelling, too, so you can use it if you prefer or if your style guide suggests doing so. The most important thing is to use one spelling consistently throughout your writing!

And if you want to be extra sure the spelling in your work is correct and consistent, you may want to get it proofread. Why not upload a sample document for free and find out how we can help?

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