Focussed or Focused?

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The term ‘Focussed’ or ‘Focused’ illustrates the classic language variation between British and American English. Wondering when to use each one? Read on to find out.


‘Focussed’ or ‘focused’ is the past participle of the word ‘focus’ and can function as both a verb and an adjective. This word signifies ‘the act of bringing something into focus’ or ‘giving significant attention to a specific thing’.

Understanding the Two Different Spellings

The two spellings are a result of the doubling rule. The doubling rule is like a spelling trick. It says that for certain words, you should double the last letter when adding a suffix that starts with a vowel. This usually happens when the following conditions are met:

  1. The word has a single vowel before the final consonant.
  2. The final consonant is preceded by a single vowel.
  3. The word is one syllable or has the stress on the final syllable.

Interestingly, “focus” doesn’t meet the third condition because the primary stress in the word “focus” is on the first syllable, not the last part, yet people sometimes double the final “s” anyway.

When to Use “Focused” vs. “Focussed”

Both versions are correct, but the spelling choice depends on the variety of English you are using.

So, the common spelling used globally is ‘focused’ with one ‘s,’ which is the American spelling. When it comes to making English easier to spell, especially in American English, they’ve sometimes left out an extra letter, like in “focused.” And this way of spelling has been more popular around the world for many years.

‘Focussed’ (with double ‘s’), on the other hand, is the British spelling and follows the doubling rule.

Now, let’s look at the examples:

As a Verb:

  1. British English: She focussed her attention on the spreadsheet.
  2. American English: He focused his attention on the task at hand.

As an Adjective:

  1. British English: The editor’s feedback was concise and focussed.
  2. American English: The final review ensured a focused and error-free document, ready for publication.

Alternatives to ‘Focussed’ or ‘Focused’

  • Concentrated
  • Attentive
  • Engaged 
  • Dedicated 
  • Absorbed 
  • Immersed 
  • Fixated 
  • Committed 
  • Mindful 
  • Devoted

If you’re not a native English speaker and unsure which one to use, sticking with ‘focused’ is a safe choice. For added assurance in your work, you may also consider hiring a professional proofreader.

03/10/2023 | Michael

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