Sunday, July 07, 2013


Today’s Traverse City Record-Eagle (07/07/13) contained two interesting variations. An article on page 1-D had this headline: Board of advisers helps. An article on page 2-D includes a signoff that identifies columnist Fred Goldenberg as a Certified Senior Advisor. So, which spelling is correct?

Generally, most sources see the two spellings as interchangeable. This includes the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, the Columbia Guide to Standard English, and the Cambridge Guide to English Usage.

But puzzling contradictions spring up in various places. Some sources claim that adviser is the American preference, while advisor is British; other sources claim just the opposite. Some say that newspapers tend to use adviser, and federal agencies tend to use advisor.

The Washington State University web site says, “Adviser and advisor are equally fine spellings. There is no distinction between them.” In contrast, Purdue University’s Marketing Communications Editorial Style Guide says we must use advisor.

According to the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), financial adviser is a general term or job title used by investment professionals and does not denote any specific designation. The same agency describes the main groups of investment professionals who are entitled to use the term financial advisor to be brokers, investment advisers, accountants, lawyers, insurance agents and financial planners. (Say, didn’t we just see the words used interchangeably?)

Today, in an attempt to uncover tangible evidence, I turned to Google. Here’s what I found:
  • Google U.S.   advisor: 820,000,000 hits;    adviser: 67,700,000 hits.
  • Google U.K.   advisor: 839,000,000  hits;   adviser: 69,300,000 hits.    
So in actual use, advisor far outweighs adviser in both countries. This is just speculation, but I think the choice may be influenced by the preferred spelling advisory. Advisery is not a sanctioned spelling.

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