Judg(e)ment: spelling

When I was first learning the law, I learnt that although general British English accepts either judgement or judgment as the spelling, preferring judgement, legal English prefers judgment. And I find that in the law reports too:

‘Transcript of the Handed Down Judgment of Smith Bernal Reporting Limited’

(a case selected at random from the BAILII site, which collects cases and legislation and has links to other international collections).

I didn’t realize there was any discussion about this in the U.S.A. – I thought it was always spelt (or spelled) judgment there – , but I see that as long ago as 31st December 2003, Blogbook had an entry on the topic.

bq. My preference has always been to omit the initial “e” for one simple reason: my 1L Civil Procedure professor told the class that “there is no ‘e’ in the word judgment – wait, I mean there is only one ‘e'”.

5 thoughts on “Judg(e)ment: spelling

  1. As a matter of fact, judgment (without “e”) is used in legal contexts, whereas the form with “e” (judgement) is used for all other purposes.

    In US English, judgment almost always drops that “intrusive” ‘e’, but in British and Canadian English, a clear distinction is made between legal and “everyday” uses.

  2. In Britain ‘judgment’ looks like a very old-fashioned spelling, and I’ve seen people who insist it should be spelt that way, and they come over rather curmudgeonly. This is consistent with its being restricted to specialized legal use.

    And, of course, with its being an older form, still preserved in everyday use in the USA.

  3. @Werner: Yes, that’s broadly correct. In BE, although both forms are permitted, the E form is used most of the time in non-legal contexts, the form without E more often in legal contexts – but that’s just a perception not backed up by research. It irritates me when legal dictionaries tell me ‘use judgement for British English’, but I suspect an increasing number of lawyers are unaware of the ‘standard’.

    @Gritchka: Did you follow the link to Blogbook? Judgment is the newer form (they quote Fowler’s ‘Modern English Usage’). The same thing happens with acknowledg(e)ment, by the way: both forms are permitted, but the form with E is probably more common (in BE).

  4. As usual, I like the summary in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage:

    “Both ways to spell this word have been in use for centuries. Judgment was once the only spelling shown in dictionaries, but that changed with the publication of the OED, in which judgment and judgement are treated as equal variants. Most dictionaries now show both spellings. Usage commentators generally allow that both are acceptable, but the Americans among them tend to prefer judgment while the British preference is for judgement. Our own most recent evidence shows both spellings are in reputable use on both sides of the Atlantic and that the preference of the critics is reflected in the general practice on both sides.”

    It’s true that judgement is attested earlier, but that’s a red herring, since they’ve both been around since the 16th century and we don’t make spelling decisions based on premodern forms. As an editor on the western side of the Atlantic, I take the e out.

  5. Ah, so I was wrong about the ages.
    The thing I am most interested in, of course, is that British writers diverge from the norm in legal texts.
    Garner’s Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage says that judgment ‘seems to be preferred in British legal texts, even as far back as the 19th century’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.