What's The Story With Storey?

Does your office have seven storeys or seven stories? The answer: it depends a little on whether you're in the US, and a little on personal preference.

Picture: Getty Images

This morning, Gizmodo editor Luke Hopewell asked me which spelling was correct when referring to the levels of a building: 'storeys' or 'stories'. The Macquarie Dictionary lists 'storey' as the main spelling for this sense, and notes that 'story' is a 'Chiefly US' alternative. However, it also offers both 'stories' and 'storeys' as plural forms, without any specific guidance on which is preferable. For the adjectival form 'storeyed', it notes more clearly that 'storied' is a 'Chiefly US' spelling. It's another case where the US spelling is clearly exercising an influence, but hasn't yet become the dominant form.

So what should we do? I would tend to favour keeping the 'ey' spelling across the board, as this makes it clearer that you're referring to this specific sense, rather than the dozen-odd meanings that 'story' already enjoys. However, if you were consistent in using the 'stories' spelling, I doubt too many people would be confused.

Note that this only applies when 'storeys' does mean "levels of a building". For the more obvious sense of a narrative or tale, 'stories' remains the sole correct spelling.

As is often the case when spellings are changing, having a clear policy is just as important as the particular choice you make. Accuracy matters, and so does consistency. That said, if you're worried that some people will assume your spelling is incorrect, you can always use 'floors' as an alternative.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    Doesn't Aus and US also differ in floor numberings? So, 7 storeys in Aus may be 8 stories in the US? Because in Aus the base floor is 'ground floor' where as in the US it is the '1st floor'.

      There are some buildings in Melbourne that have level 1 as ground, more often than not though ground and level 1 are separate.

        I've only ever experienced that when the building is on uneven/sloping ground so one side of the building comes out on to the street at a floor below where the other side of the building comes out to the street. I guess I shouldn't really be surprised that it does happen as you say occasionally, though.

          Yeah, the como on Chapel in South Yarra is an example, I guess it does run alongside Toorak road which slightly goes downhill, could be the reason, not sure.

      Gets worse itself when you get to the 12th floor, because they don't like having a 13th floor (our 12th is their 14th, even though it really is 13th)

    A lot of apartment or small office buildings have a 1st floor rather than ground for the suite or apartment numbers e.g 0103 (or 103) is often level 1/ground, apartment 3.

    Generally i have noticed its only large offices that are likely single tenant, buildings that have an entire floor lobby or shopping centres that have a 'ground'.

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