Some days are full of social media burns so severe people are looking for ointment. Other days, people are posting charred Pinterest fails of recipes gone wrong. But the word that comes up again and again is that “burn.”
Have you ever been “burned” by bad spelling? Ever been “burnt” by it? Is there a difference?
In truth, I could argue that the words are interchangeable—which to a degree they absolutely are—but, okay, fine, let’s talk less about what’s formally correct, and what’s most common in American English.
- “Burned” is the most frequently used past tense of the verb “burn” for U.S. writers. “Burnt” is perfectly acceptable, but like barmy and axe, it’s just not the choice word on this side of the pond.
- “Burnt” does have its time to shine for American writer and speakers, though—just not in a verb form. Think of burnt casseroles or burnt toast. This spelling is commonly used in adjective form. It’s also familiar in color names like “burnt sienna” and “burnt umber,” but those usages are adjectives after all.
This explanation might not help with any other burns online, but at least your spelling won’t be going up in smoke.