Advisor vs. adviser: What’s the difference?

Adviser vs. advisor

Adviser and advisor are spelled differently, but they are variants of the same word. Both adviser and advisor are used to describe a position where somebody is qualified to provide suggestions, advice, or mentorship. 

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Is there a difference between adviser and advisor?

Grammar students and business professionals alike are anxious about the different spellings of advisor and adviser. If you’re a financial planner and provide financial services, do you make business cards stating “financial adviser” or “financial advisor”? What about academic advisor vs. academic adviser? How do you avoid misspelling your official title? 

Grammatically speaking, there is no difference between the words adviser and advisor. Both noun forms represent the same definition, and the correct spelling of each depends on location, context, publishing style guides, and personal preferences. There is one general editing rule for instances like adviser vs. advisor, though, which is to choose one form of the word and to use it consistently. 

The confusion between spelling adviser and advisor is more prominent in the United States, where official government or professional titles use advisor over adviser. The exact cause for this is unclear, although some grammarians believe advisor is more formal than adviser. Despite the differences in preferred spelling, however, using either form is still correct. 

Advice vs. advise vs. advisory

Words such as advice, advise, advisory, and advisories are all used similarly to adviser or advisor, although they don’t always share the same context. The commonalities between using adviser vs. advisor suggest how the words may have different meanings depending on the situation: advisers provide advice, while advisors issue advisories.

Advice

The word advice is a noun that represents an opinion about what someone should do or react for a future scenario. 

“Do you have any advice on what I should tell my boss?” 

Advise

The verb advise describes the action of providing advice to somebody regarding their next best steps or decisions, depending on the situation they are in. For example,

“I would advise your online business to invest in a spellchecker.” 

Advisory

The word advisory is an adjective that describes someone with the ability to make suggestions without needing to enact those suggestions themselves. 

“The Council of Economic Advisers to the White House act within an advisory role.”

Advisory, or advisories, is also used as a noun when describing an official warning, such a travel advisory or severe weather advisory. For example,

“Canada issues travel advisory for wildfires in California.”

What does adviser mean?

The word adviser is a noun used to describe somebody who provides professional guidance or who holds a position where it’s their job to give others advice. 

Synonyms of adviser include:

Aide, coach, confidant, consultant, instructor, consigliere, consultant, counsel, and counselor. 

The word adviser is additionally related to terms such as: 

Authority, expert, professional, specialist, confidant, cabinet, and sounding board. 

Who is an adviser?

In essence, an adviser is a mentor, although there are several occupations or mentorship roles where using the word adviser is too vague to encompass a specific adviser’s range of responsibilities. Someone who is an adviser can be a therapist, a consultant, or even a fortuneteller. 

Examples of official US government “advisor” titles include:

In contrast to the examples of government positions utilizing advisor over adviser, there are still government job titles that use adviser instead. For example:

There are several other instances in American English, where advisor and adviser are used interchangeably, and the inconsistency becomes confusing for audiences. For example:

  • Financial advisor/adviser
  • Investment advisor/adviser
  • Chief adviser/advisor
  • Academic adviser/advisor

Where to use adviser vs. advisor

Where there are spelling discrepancies for the same words, geography is often to blame. The English language contains modern variations wherever it’s used, whether it’s in North America, the United Kingdom, or Australia, to name a few. But the English language evolved over centuries of Latin and Germanic translations and adaptions, so it’s no wonder how differently people use the language around the world today. 

United States

Adviser and advisor are used synonymously in the United States, although advisor is thought to be more formal than adviser. In most instances, government and educational advisory titles utilize “advisor” to indicate official job titles. 

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, nouns that indicate roles or titles are more likely to end with -er, and thus, adviser is the oldest most common spelling of the word. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun adviser as someone who provides advice within a specific industry. 

Australia

According to the Macquarie Dictionary, Australians define an adviser as someone who provides advice or an educational figure that councils students during their time in school. Advisor is still used similarly to that of the United States, although the consensus is that adviser is more correct. 

Historical use of adviser vs. advisor

Between adviser and advisor, the spelling of adviser is the oldest form in the English language. There are several reporting discrepancies regarding when the word adviser was first used. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary reports the first use of adviser around 1536, while the Online Etymology Dictionary states how adviser was first used around 1610. The latter source additionally provides insight into how adviser was first used to describe an educational counselor in 1887, while government titles adapted its use in 1917. 

Professional style guides on adviser vs. advisor

The Associated Press Stylebook

Journalistic publications and media entities in the United States often use The Associated Press Stylebook to provide editorial suggestions for written content. AP Stylebook draws upon Webster’s New World College Dictionary for spelling consistency, which states how adviser is the correct form to use. 

While the AP Stylebook is updated and released every spring, the style guide has remained firm on their rules for using adviser over advisor. In 2013, the AP Stylebook tweeted out:

“AP Style tip: use adviser, not advisor: The president and his advisers consulted at the White House.” 

The Chicago Manual of Style

Academic book and magazine publications often follow The Chicago Manual of Style for editing purposes. Chicago-style editing doesn’t follow a rule for adviser vs. advisor, but the manual does express the necessity for choosing one and remaining consistent. However, the style guide relies on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to decide on spelling rules, which declares adviser as the correct spelling. 

Additional publication style guides who use adviser instead of advisor:

  • The Economist:adviser, advisory.” 
  • The Guardian and Observer: adviser, not advisor.” 
  • The New York Times: adviser, as shown in previous articles
  • The Wall Street Journal: adviser, as shown in previous articles

Style guides without a rule on adviser vs. advisor:

  • The Columbia Guide to Online Style
  • The Elements of Style (Strunk and White)
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

Test Yourself!

Put your grammar skills to the test with the following advisor vs. adviser multiple-choice questions. 

  1. Between 2009 and 2019, James L. Jones was the National Security _________ to US President Obama. 
    a. Adviser
    b. Advisor
    c. Adviser/advisor are correct
    d. None of the above
  2. To establish ethical practices involving artificial intelligence, the American company Google implemented the use of an Advanced Technology External __________ Council. 
    a. Advisor
    b. Adviser
    c. Adviser/advisor are correct 
    d. None of the above
  3. In the United Kingdom, a person who provides educational guidance for students is called an ________________.
    a. Academic adviser
    b. Academic advisor
    c. Either adviser or advisor is correct
    d. None of the above
  4. If you’re a journalist from The Associated Press covering US government council meetings, when are you permitted to use advisor instead of adviser? 
    a. When referencing an official title of a council adviser member
    b. The AP Stylebook always uses advisor instead of adviser 
    c. Never, AP Stylebook only uses adviser
    d. None of the above
  5. Since John was the Registered Investment Advisor for Google, Microsoft decided he is qualified to be a financial ___________ for Bing. 
    a. Advisor
    b. Adviser
    c. Either adviser or advisor is correct
    d. None of the above

Answers

  1. B: Advisor
  2. A: Advisor
  3. A: Academic adviser
  4. C: Never, AP Stylebook only uses adviser
  5. A: Advisor; advisor is consistent 

Sources

  1. Advice.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2019. 
  2. Advise.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2019. 
  3. Adviser.” The Economist Style Guide, The Economist Newspaper, Profile Books, 2005. 
  4. Adviser.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2019. 
  5. Adviser.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2019. 
  6. Adviser.” Macquarie Dictionary, Macmillan Publishers Austrialia, 2019. 
  7. Adviser.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2019. 
  8. Adviser.” Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2019. 
  9. Adviser (n.).” Online Etymology Dictionary, 2019. 
  10. Advisory.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2019. 
  11. Allen, S. “What Is the Difference Between Advisor and Adviser?Business 2 Community, May 27, 2016.
  12. Casagrande, J. “Column:: A Word, Please: Advisor or adviser? Dictionaries differ on advice.” Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2019. 
  13. Guardian and Observer style guide: A.” The Guardian, Guardian News & Media, Dec. 23, 2015. 

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