Program vs. Programme: What’s the Difference?

You may notice a doubled consonant and an extra –e at the end of many words, depending on the source of the material you are reading. That extra letter is an example of spelling conventions in British English. American writers omit that letter combination from the end of some words, when the preceding letters are a short vowel followed by a consonant at the end of a word.

Programme and program illustrate this concept. While it might be tempting to dismiss the former as British and the latter as American, there is an important exception for one usage case.

Continue reading to learn what that exception is.

What is the Difference Between Program and Programme?

In this post, I will compare program vs programme. I will use each of these spellings in a sentence, and explain when it is appropriate to spell the word one way vs. the other.

Plus, at the end, I will demonstrate a useful trick to help you decide whether you should be using program or programme in your own writing.

When to Use Program

program versus programmeWhat does program mean? Program can be a noun or a verb.

As a verb, program means to input a series of commands that govern the functioning of a machine or to arrange according to a predetermined set of constraints.

For example,

  • Machinists program sophisticated tools to perform complex tasks.
  • Program the robot to self-destruct if it is captured by enemy forces.
  • Some children learn to program equations in math class.

As a noun, program can mean many things. Sometimes, this word refers to a piece of software that runs on a computer. Other times, program means a pamphlet outlining a schedule of events. Still, another definition of program is a show or segment of TV, radio, or other media. Program can also refer to a service or event that recurs according to a set schedule.

For example,

  • Jeremy’s computer became infected with a virus after he downloaded a program that turns his cursor into a swimming fish.
  • Enrollment in the district’s after-school program has surged over the past two years.
  • When Alex saw Hamilton, she made sure to keep her program as a souvenir.
  • Karen’s grandmother became disgusted with the evening news program, and switched off her TV.
  • The program is being financed by a $10 million donation from Jon Gray, the global head of real estate at the investment firm Blackstone Group, and Mr. Gray’s wife, Mindy. –The New York Times

Program is the standard spelling of this word in American English.

When to Use Programme

Definition of programme definition and definition of program definitionWhat does programme mean? Programme is a primarily British spelling of program. This spelling is standard in British English, with one exception: in the sense of software, program is preferred in both American and British English. See the following sentence for an example of this exception.

  • The London news station hosted a special programme featuring interviews with the Glascow-based engineer who developed the computer program.

When it comes to the other uses of program, however, programme is still preferred.

  • Unemployed Scots taking part in newly devolved, voluntary work programmes will not face sanctions, after the Scottish government won its battle with Westminster to exempt those taking part from having their benefits stopped or reduced. –The Guardian

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define programme and define programHere is a helpful trick to remember programme vs. program.

Program is the standard spelling of this word in American English, and in British English when referring to a piece of software. For all other contexts in British English, choose programme instead.

To help you remember this difference, notice that programme ends with an E, the same letter that begins the word England. This shared letter is a useful way to remember that programme is standard where British English conventions hold sway.

Summary

Is it program or programme? Program and programme are different spellings of the same word, reflecting differences in spelling conventions between American and British English. Both words are suitable for many contexts, and are interchangeable with the exception of computer software, when program is the standard variant across the world.

You can use the E at the end of programme and the beginning of England to remember that programme is the British standard spelling.

Otherwise, you can always review this article to resolve any lingering questions.