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.