• 3-minute read
  • 30th May 2019

Word Choice: Draft vs. Draught

Maybe Noah Webster had a point. We say this because, as much as we love Australian English, some of the spellings we’ve kept from British English are confusing. Take ‘draft’ and ‘draught’. Look different written down, don’t they? So you’d assume that they must sound different, too. Think again!

‘Draft’ and ‘draught’ actually sound the same despite differing in meaning. So check out our guide to make sure you can use them correctly.

Draft (Banking, Conscription and Planning)

‘Draft’ began as a variant spelling of ‘draught’. Over time, however, we started to use these spellings for separate things. And in modern Australian English, we can use ‘draft’ as a noun or a verb.

As a noun, the main meanings of ‘draft’ are:

  • A written order for a bank to pay money (e.g. a banker’s draft)
  • Conscription, typically to the military (e.g. called up in the draft)
  • An initial plan or version of something (e.g. a first draft of a document)

And as a verb, we can use this term to mean:

  • Prepare an initial version of a document (e.g. to draft a letter)
  • To enact conscription (e.g. to be drafted into the army)

In any of these cases, then, the correct spelling will usually be ‘draft’. One exception is someone who creates technical drawings, which uses the old-fashioned spelling ‘draughtsperson’.

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Draught (Drinks, Wind, Horses and Games)

We still use the older spelling of ‘draught’ in Australian English for several things, including as both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, it can refer to:

  • A current of air (e.g. a cool draught came through the window)
  • An act of drinking or inhaling (e.g. she downed the beer in a single draught)
  • The depth of water needed to float a ship (e.g. a shallow draught)

As an adjective, meanwhile, we can use it to describe the following:

  • Drink served from a barrel or tank (e.g. a draught beer)
  • An animal that pulls a heavy load (e.g. a draught horse)

In addition, we call the game with round pieces on a chequerboard draughts. American English uses ‘draft’ for all these terms except the game, which is called ‘checkers’ in the United States.

Draughts or checkers?
Draughts or checkers?

Summary: Draft or Draught?

In Australian English, the words ‘draft’ and ‘draught’ have distinct meanings:

  • We use draft as a noun to refer to a payment order from a bank, military enlistment, or a preliminary version of something. As a verb, meanwhile, we can use it to mean ‘prepare an initial version of a document’ or ‘enlist’.
  • We can use draught as a noun to describe a current of air, an act of drinking, or the depth of water needed to float a ship. As an adjective, moreover, we use it to refer to an animal that pulls a load or drink served from a barrel.

Don’t forget, too, that American English uses the spelling ‘draft’ in all cases. And to ensure your writing is error free, you can also have it proofread.

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