• 3-minute read
  • 21st March 2019

Word Choice: Role vs. Roll

Some words, such as ‘roll’, have more definitions than is strictly decent. And since it sounds identical to the word ‘role’, it is easy to get these terms mixed up. But if you check out our guide to using ‘role’ and ‘roll’ correctly, you can be confident your written work will be spelling error free.

Role (A Position or Part)

We’ll begin with ‘role’, since this term has fewer meanings. Its main use is to indicate a position within an organisation or system. In particular, being in a specific ‘role’ usually implies having a purpose or duty:

My role as a proofreader is to check texts for errors.

Proofreading plays an important role in the publishing industry.

The other key use of ‘role’ is to mean ‘part for an actor’:

I auditioned for the lead role in the play.

One thing to note here is that ‘role’ is always a noun, never a verb.

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The Many Meanings of ‘Roll’

‘Roll’ has several uses as a verb and a noun. As a verb, these include:

  • Turn over to face a different direction (e.g. I rolled onto my back)
  • Move via turning (e.g. The cheese rolled down the hill)
  • Turn something into a ball or tube (e.g. She rolled the clay in her hands)
  • Make something smooth and flat (e.g. Roll out the pastry)
  • Make a continuous, repeated sound (e.g. The thunder rolled loudly)

And as a noun, we can use ‘roll’ to refer to the following:

  • The act of rolling (e.g. I will do a forward roll)
  • Something that has been rolled into a tube (e.g. A roll of carpet)
  • An official list of names (e.g. An electoral roll)
  • A continuous, repeated sound (e.g. A drum roll)
  • A small bread product (e.g. A bread roll)

This isn’t even a full list of the uses of ‘roll’. For example, a tear can ‘roll’ down your cheek, and a ship might ‘roll’ from side to side in rough seas. However, we have covered the main uses of ‘roll’ above. And the main thing to take away from this is that ‘roll’ is a term with many definitions!

Summary: Role or Roll?

The key here is remembering what ‘role’ means, as this term has fewer uses:

  • The noun role means ‘position in a system’ or ‘part for an actor’.
  • Roll can be either a noun or a verb. Its meanings include turning over, making a low rumbling sound, a list of names, and a small bread product.

In essence, then, if you’re referring to a position or part in something, the correct spelling will be ‘role’. And in any other situation, ‘roll’ will be correct. But if you want to make doubly sure that your writing is free from errors, you can always have it proofread by our expert editors.

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