Adviser or Advisor: What’s the Difference?

If you are a student looking for advice on a particular major or academic discipline, you might go to the student center and schedule an appointment with and academic adviser. Or is it advisor? What exactly is the correct spelling for this position?

Today, I want to talk about these two words, both of which have the same meanings, and explain which of them is correct to use and when. After reading this post, you won’t ever confuse advisor vs. adviser again.

What is the Difference Between Advisor and Adviser?

Advisor and adviser are both nouns, and they refer to one that advises, such as a person or firm that offers official or professional advice to clients.

  • President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, urged Pakistani civilian and military leaders on Sunday to do more to stop militants from using Pakistani territory to stage attacks in neighboring countries. –New York Times
  • The group is a network of independently owned advisors who number just under 10,000 and sell over $14 billion a year in trips, mainly leisure and mostly luxury. –Forbes
  • The Bulls on Monday announced the hire of Toni Kukoc as special adviser to Michael Reinsdorf, the team’s president and chief operating officer. –Chicago Tribune
  • Monday morning’s wildly up-and-down stock market may have spread fear among investors, but financial advisors are warning their clients not to make rash decisions. –L.A. Times

You’re probably still asking yourself, “Okay, when do I decide which one to use?”

The short answer to this question is that both are acceptable formations. But, that’s not all that should be said on the matter.

When to Use Adviser

adviser versus advisor definitionWhat does adviser mean? Although both forms appear throughout the English-speaking world, there is a clear preference among dictionaries, usage guides, and writers alike for adviser (with an “e”). This is the older of the two spellings, which is probably the reason for its dominance.

In fact, the Oxford English Corpus shows that adviser occurs nearly three times as often as does advisor. This preference in usage is probably what has led usage guides like Fowler’s, Garner’s, and the AP Stylebook to list adviser as the preferred spelling.

When to Use Advisor

advisor versus adviser grammar rulesWhat does advisor mean? There is a somewhat popular myth that circulates around that adviser is the preferred spelling in British English and advisor is the preferred spelling in American English.

This is not true; in both British and American English, the traditional spelling adviser predominates.

It is true, however, that the preference for adviser is particularly strong in British English, whereas in American English it isn’t quite so strong. The predominance of adviser is marginally less in American English than in other English speaking regions.

For example, it is common throughout North America for official job titles to carry the spelling advisor. You often see titles such as “financial advisor” or “academic advisor.” This can sometimes cause adviser to be seen as less formal, while an advisor is seen someone who gives advice for a living.

The truth is, either advisor or adviser is acceptable.

Proper names, however, should always be spelled how they are. For example, the president’s “Council on Economic Advisers” should not be spelled any other way. That is the official spelling.

Adviser as an Adjective

english mistakes with advisoryWhile adviser is the preferred noun-form spelling, the adjectival form of adviser is actually spelled advisory. Perhaps this is what leads to confusion between adviser vs. advisor. For example,

  • Will you act as an adviser for my new company?
  • Will you perform the advisory role for my new company?

Also, this adjectival spelling is unlike the noun form. While it is acceptable to use either adviser or advisor, advisory is the only accepted adjectival spelling. Advisery is not an acceptable spelling.

Remember the Difference

Both spellings are acceptable, but this does not mean that both are equally preferred.

One way that you can remember which is the preferred spelling is that adviser (with an “e”) is the preferred spelling. Both words have “e’s” in them.

Summary

Adviser is both the earlier and preferred spelling of the two.

Advisor is sometimes used in the spelling of official titles.