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Gray vs. Grey

August 5, 2008 | 8 Comments

Dear Garrison,
I write for a hobby and have a character whose eyes are the color of ash. I'm debating whether to say they are gray or grey. Do you have a preference?

Helen T.
Easley, SC

P.S. Congratulations on your cameo appearance in Stephen King's DUMA KEY. I think this means you have arrived.

For eyes, I'd write "grey" but for hair I'd write "gray"—suits, I don't know.—As for the King reference, I'm guessing that he had me doing the News from Lake Wobegon on the radio in a deserted home just as some horrible mutated creature bursts in and slaughters the family, or perhaps a carnivorous lawnmower.


The reference to Garrison in DUMA KEY wasn't about A Prairie Home Companion, but was a free plug for Garrison Keillor's book, GOOD POEMS. The character reads from the book.

Grey vs. Gray? How about "ASH"?

The Associated Press Style Book calls for "gray" in all usages except "greyhound." For editors, it's our bible.

Hi, folks. Regarding grey/gray. I'm a copy editor, and the style favored by American publishers is gray; grey is considered a British spelling. (That said, it's always seemed to me that grey has more white in it than gray, the color of battleships and submarines.)

'Grey' is the British English spelling of the color. 'Gray' is the American English spelling (chiefly) of the color. 'Gray' is also a person's surname.

Why do people ask GK about things he knows nothing about? More mysterious: why does he risk an answer?

As an editor, I can tell you that "gray" is the preferred way of spelling the color. However, it is perfectly acceptable to spell it "grey."

As an editor, if I were to receive a manuscript with both spellings (never mind that the word is consistently spelled "gray" for suits or "grey" for eyes), I would correct them all to be consistently spelled "gray." If the author would prefer the spelling "grey," then I would change it to that. But I would explain to the author that hee or she should know that consistency is important in a manuscript.


I love your answer, but gray = American English and grey = British English. My question would be, was it Mr. Webster or someone else who decided that.

I read that according to a survey conducted both in the U.S. and England, many people believe grey is an actual color perceived as the hue of “silver”, and gray is a sliding scale of values from black to white. This was believed in both reasons so it appears that aside from grammatical reasoning there is a connotative attitude toward the two

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