You write “advisor,” and I write “adviser”

Anyone who writes about the investment industry eventually must confront a difficult question: What’s the correct spelling of the word that forms the second half of the acronym FA? Is it “adviser” with an E, or “advisor” with an O?

I’ve decided to use “adviser with an E” in my own work. The choice wasn’t entirely arbitrary. I do a lot of writing about regulation and compliance, and “adviser with an E” is the spelling used in the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

However, it’s a choice that puts me increasingly out of touch with the times, as the following chart from Google Books shows. (Click on the image to see it full size.)

It’s called an “Ngram,” and it plots the rate of appearance of the 2 words in the English books that Google has online.

It shows that “adviser with an E” is the traditional spelling, while “advisor with an O” is a relative upstart, having only gained currency around the turn of the last century.

But the popularity of “adviser with an E” peaked in the 1930s. Was the passage of the Investment Adviser Act just too much for it?

In the meantime, “advisor with an O” has been steadily gaining — and is now more common than “adviser with an E” in American English. The older spelling is still more popular in British English, but is similarly losing ground.

For now, I’ll stick with “adviser with an E,” though there may soon be a time when I’m forced to change. Any thoughts on why “advisor with an O” is on the ascendant?

NICSA: 8400 Westpark Drive, 2nd Floor McLean, VA 22102 • Tel: 508.485.1500 • Fax: 508.485.1560