Naught and nought are yet another example of how our language has evolved. Both words are spelling variants of the same pronoun.
Both are a synonym for “nothing.” In mathematical terms, nought in British English also is another word for zero, as in He added a nought and bet £100 rather than £10.
Interestingly, naught evolved from the Middle-English nought, the latter of which has been around for more than a thousand years. You’ve probably heard it in phrases like it was all for naught or the more modern came to naught.
Both words are considered archaic and hence pretentious. All you really need to write is “nothing” or in some cases with nought “zero.”
If writing historical fiction, however, your character might use this archaic word; for example, When I was naught a wee bit of a lad, I practiced my slingshot on passing sparrows. In that case, use naught if your story is set after 1500 CE but use nought if set before then.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.