I recently wrote a line that used the word for a chopping instrument. For a moment, I wondered whether it should be ax or axe.
I guess I never really paid much attention to whether I usually write ax or axe. I know I’ve seen both of them plenty of times over the years.
When I recently wrote about OnlyFans’ big announcement, I said this:
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I originally wrote ax. But before I moved on to the next line, something told me to add the E at the end.
Why? I don’t really know. So I looked it up and found a controversy.
Merriam Webster, who ought to know for sure, says either is correct. But those clever dictionary people point out that axe is the more popular choice.
WritingExplained reports a slight preference in American English for the two-letter version. It illustrates the point with compound words that use ax or axe. It says British English prefers pickaxe, poleaxe, and broadaxe while the American equivalents aren’t spelled with that extra E.
But regardless, sometimes you’re at the mercy of your style guide.
The funny thing is everytime I write axe, Grammarly suggests a correction with ax. Even though it seems axe is the more common spelling, Grammarly seems to hate it. That’s funny, though, because the Grammarly blog clearly leans toward axe, even in idioms like getting the axe or having an axe to grind.
I looked it up in my trusty Associated Press Stylebook, the guide I use here on this blog and in my professional life. AP Style is clear: Use ax, not axe.
The preferred spelling seems to be the three-letter variety. Is that the one you use?