Wikipedia talk:Spelling

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Old discussion[change source]

I remain unconvinced about the suggestion that AE ought be changed to BE. It seems petty and is something which is likely to annoy most writers. It annoys me and I am British. Both are correct, so why change one to the other? I can't see any benefit to it. Angela

Then don't do it. But surely you can see that if you prevent others from doing it, then we will have seesaw wars with U.S. spelling imposed by Americans, and British spelling by almost everyone else. I have never seen an International English say used by an NGO that did not specify British-style spellings... never. Academic papers for international conferences that are more than just US+Canada are always in International English which means British spelling, and when they're in Canada sometimes they just say "either way is fine". ONLY US-ONLY institutions require US spellings. But plenty require British spellings. This is something the Simple English Users have to deal with. Americans just invade, while the NGOs actually give them food. So whose spelling is more important to them?

What do you mean when you say "British English"? There are differences in spelling preferences in dictionaries produced in Britain. For example the preference for -ize in Oxford and -ise elsewhere. Trying to standardize on something that doesn't exist is fraight with problems.

Another benefit is that words like "centre" are then the same in both English and French. This tends to be useful in names, as anyone who has visited Canada knows.

This way lies madness. :-) This is supposed to be an English-language Wikipedia; we can't start worrying about how other languages do things. -- RJWiki
No one is "worrying". It's just a side benefit of using International/Australian/Canadian/British spellings that a very few words end up the same in French, like kilometre, centre, etc.

A few random thoughts: 1) As I understand it, the En Wikipedia has an explicit policy of not favoring either British English or American English.

This policy is provably stupid. Do a thought experiment: you have a Brit and an American both editing an article. Each changes all the spellings to "his own" every time he edits... the number of unnecessary edits mounts, and it really NEVER ends... eventually one standard or another wins out by sheer weight... better to choose.
In theory, maybe. In practice neither changes the spellings unless they occur in a piece of text which is being completely rewritten. That's my experience anyway. The only exception is when a newbie doesn't know any better. -- Derek Ross

2) Personally, I have a pretty strong irrational prejudice against British English spellings (they usually seem affected to me).

It's good to fight these prejudices.

3) I think at this stage of the game (Oct 2003), we should be basing our SEWiki Simple English on something, and the most logical something to begin with is Basic English, which does or doesn't use the British English spellings?? I had assumed that it did, but looking at our Basic English Alphabetical Wordlist it apparently doesn't. -- RJWiki

As far as I know, Basic English is an American thing, so it would use the American spellings. I think going the same way as the English WP does is best; allow both versions and don't go round changing them arbitrarily. Angela
It's not up to either of you whether anyone else "changes them arbitrarily". It's only up to either of you whether you want to waste your time running around telling those who do, to stop it. I think the proposal to tell only those turning British into US spelling to stop it, is sound, because it has to be one way or the other.

I thought BE was British. Quick Google search seems to confirm this. See for example -- RJWiki

It's irrelevant. We've already agreed Basic English just is not rich enough for what we're trying to do here.

Consistency is important, because otherwise you just confuse people. It is not "simple" to have two different spellings for the same word. It makes more sense to use British English spellings, as that is what most international things use.

That's exactly what the original statement said. For some reason the idea of letting Americans not only write in their own idiom, but letting them change British to American spellings, appeals to Angela and RJWiki. This is just foolish. I agree completely, British only, Death to America and all that.

The most important time to be consistent is in titles of pages. If you don't know what spelling the title to a page is in you aren't going to be able to link to it correctly. You could have loads of redirects, but it is easier to just have one policy so you can link directly. -- Tango

Careful there Limey. If it wasn't for us Americans, you'd probably be speaking German now! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 07:13, 22 February 2013 (UTC)
Absolutely. The insanity over at Full English leads to labor and labour (economics), behavioural economics and behavioral finance. Its obviously wrong. We should just not permit that to happen.
So, it's now 2 for strict British-only spellings, 2 still whining about letting writers *change* British to American spelling - is this some new human right we haven't heard of? Confusing people?
Oh yes, the right to confuse, the 42nd amendment. ;-) -- Tango

Therein lies a mess. :)

The following interesting footnote appears in BASIC ENGLISH: International Second Language ( as footnote 10...

Although Ogden refused to associate Basic with any movement for spelling reform, he was, of course, prepared to accept whatever could be accomplished, and he recommended that "wherever possible without arousing prejudice, the changes already achieved in America should be extended to the rest of the English-speaking world." Accordingly, in The Basic Words as here printed in Section Two, the American spellings, behavior, color, harbor, humor, and plow will be found.

It was written by the editor for the 1968 edition and seems to pretty conclusively prove that we should be using American spelling if we are to follow Ogden's own intentions. -- Derek Ross 06:56, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

It's a footnote to the following paragraphs...

A chief obstacle to the spread of English has hitherto been its phonetic irregularity, the frequency with which the same symbols are used to represent different sounds, and the uncertainties of stress. There is the fact that the word fish, as Sir Richard Paget has noted, might appear as ghoti (gh as in enough, etc.); and if dealt with in the same way foolish might be spelled in 613,975 different ways.
To master such details in a vocabulary of 20,000 words, or even 2,000, necessitates an amount of drudgery which has given phoneticians and advocates of synthetic languages their opportunity. With the Basic vocabulary, however, such irregularities are reduced to a minimum in which, by treating each word as an individual, the learner can even profit by its peculiar appearance in written form as an aid to memory, and historical continuity can thus be preserved. The 850 sounds being fixed by the gramophone records, their written forms can be memorized as individual entities, with no special emphasis on any principle but that of stress.
Phonetic (spelling) reform can thus be left to pursue its separate path. It may find Basic a useful ally, and Basic may later profit by its progress. Hence the importance of Basic for educational work which cannot allow itself to be involved in controversies such as any violent departure from the habits of centuries must always engender.

...which again appear to support the case that Ogden liked the idea of spelling reform in principle, American or otherwise. -- Derek Ross 07:12, 12 Mar 2005 (UTC)

corollary[change source]

Need io remide you this is not English Wikipedia but simple English for non-native speakers. The queation is what do they teach in europe. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 01:58, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

Acknowledge English's diversity[change source]

If someone is learning English, then they are going to have to learn, sooner or later, that words are spelled differently in different English-speaking regions, and sometimes completely different words for the same thing are favored/favoured. They need to be able to recognize that regional differences and preferences exist, and they need to be able to cope without difficulty when they encounter these differences.

Some points to consider:

  • Language is dynamic; there's no globally-recognized authority setting or enforcing standards;
  • Dictionaries aren't spelling police; they merely reflect trends in usage;
  • Dictionaries are authored and marketed in specific regions, reflecting the preferences of those regions;
  • Colonialism, and protests thereof, had more of an impact on regional preferences than anything;
  • Although they're the major ones, there are more dialects than just BE and AE;
  • It's all still English;
  • And most importantly, on the Internet especially, exposure to more than one dialect - including word choices, idioms, punctuation, and phrasing, not just spelling - is inevitable!

So, those who would call for one dialect to be "correct" for Simple English Wikipedia's purposes are pissing in the wind. I feel a far more constructive approach would be to think about ways we can educate the reader about the different spellings and different word choices they are likely to encounter as they read this and any other text.

Perhaps some templates? Maybe something at the bottom of an article, in a little box floated right: "This article has some words that aren't spelled the same everywhere in the English-speaking world. For example, realize is usually spelled realise outside of the United States. Some spellings are considered more OK than others, depending on where you are and who you ask." ... or "This article uses words or phrases that are more common in some places in the world than in others. For example, flat means about the same thing as apartment." -- mjb 17:05, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

Awkward[change source]

Isn't it strange to have two diffrent spellings in diffrent articles? If this is a wiki for young children who are still learning English, I don't see why we should confuse them. If children are confused and hence learn the wrong spelling, wouldn't Wikipedia be responsible? Of course, this is a bit ridiculous but what if it really does happen? Prime Contributer (talk) 14:03, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

It's not just for children, but for anybody who does not speak English as their first language. And as for two different spellings, do you mean the differences between British English and American English? TheWolf 14:29, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Yes. Sorry for criticising, but I have a suggestion. Can we put a notice whenever we are using British English or something like that? Or just make it common that we should all use American English? Prime Contributer (talk) 14:42, 2 June 2008 (UTC) Following that logic, should children still learning English not read anything written by someone across their ocean? (talk) 06:35, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

(Sigh) I think we should do pure American English. It saves space, and I'm not used to "colour" in place if "color". Loudclaw (talk) 23:33, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
Articles about American subjects should be written in American English. Articles about English subjects should be written in British English. Articles about neither should be written in one or the other, but, whichever is chosen, it should remain consistent throughout the article. (see WP:MOS#National varieties of English) Albacore (talk · changes) 23:50, 16 January 2011 (UTC)