Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Spelling/Archive 1

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American and British spelling

US + British spelling No names, no packdrill, no article references but I am very disappointed at how quickly a debate about spelling can degenerate into the stirrings of a transatlantic flame war. It only requires a small level of silliness and a couple of provocative comments for people to lose their sense of perspective and start deploying stupid national stereotypes about "Brits" and "Yanks". I have seen various internet communities have a pretty good go at tearing themselves apart over this stuff and I would hate to see it happen here; I do most sincerely wish that people would check the Manual of Style's comments on spelling, and then take several deep breaths and have a coffee, tea or other beverage of choice before doing anything, when there is a spelling debate in the offing. I really strongly believe that these things can be very damaging and should be avoided at almost all costs. Jimbo pops up from time to time reminding us that peace, love, tolerance etc go a long way in a project like this, and this is a very very good example of an area in which he is right. Please please please check and abide by the MoS, and if you need to discuss it don't drag out the hoary old stereotypes. We try not to do it to other ethnic and national groups, so why on Earth would it be OK to do it about Americans or British people? Nevilley 07:35 Mar 12, 2003 (UTC)

Does anybody else keep thinking people are appealing to the "Mail on Sunday" as a spelling reference? Just me? Okay, never mind ;-) - Khendon

Spelling Style

I fail to see why the spelling Anglicization might jar (Wikipedia Manual of Style). My understanding is that the suffix -ize (and thus -ization and -izing) is normal in American English but in British English one has a choice betweeen -ize and -ise. However, the Oxford English Dictionary and its offshoots strongly recommend -ize, and the OED presents a good argument in its favor. Since this spelling convention is compatible with American English it would make sense to employ it consistently in preference to -ise. To quote the OED: "as the pronunciation is also with z, there is no reason why in English the special French spelling should be followed, in opposition to that which is at once etymological and phonetic." Shantavira 11:21, 25 Sep 2003 (UTC)

In British English, "ize" is appropriate for verbs derived from the Greek, although "ise" is permissible. For verbs not derived from the Greek, e.g. advertise, despise, advise, "ise" is the only option. So most people use "ise" all the time for simplicity. Andy G 22:17, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)
Irrespective of what some dictionaries, many users of British English, Hiberno-English, Indian English and other forms invariably use ise and baulk at ize. Wikipedia policy is to show parity of esteem between both British and American forms of english. So both forms are equal in value here. FearÉIREANN 22:46, 9 Dec 2003 (UTC)

English Versions

There are two main recognised ways of spelling English. British and American. I was wondering, is there any way of customising the spelling on the page so that a reader can automatically get his spelling as the case in date variations? Wiki programmers should take up this issue. Probably an array of words could be cross referenced. Nichalp

Automatic procedures and language don't go well together at present, and I don't think there is a simple find-and-replace that can shift between AE and BE; there is more to language than spelling, even though the difference between AE and BE is small. This subject is partly dealt with in the Wikipedia:Manual of Style, esp the section Usage and spelling. The convention seems to be consistent within articles. — Sverdrup 14:33, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)
If the authors of word processors can find an acceptible solution to language translation, there's no reason why Wikipedia shouldn't incorporate the same. Although I agree that there is more than spelling to language variations, spelling differences are the most visible. Nichalp 18:55, Mar 29, 2004 (UTC)
While it sounds relatively easy to convert color to colour or to delete an L in travelled, thinking the proposal through further reveals major problems: would you convert a textual quote from Shakespeare or the title of a U.S. tv program? I'd certainly hope not, so we'd need a <noUsUkconvert> tag. And the next request would be automatic conversion of punctuation rules, or of the which/that distinction that USians are so quick to stomp on but that UKians largely don't care about. I think our programmers' time could be more usefully spent pursuing other enhancements to the software. The use of different styles of English here isn't really a problem, so long as everyone – on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the Irish Sea, on the soft underbelly of Asia, and right round down under – learns to rejoice in diversity and respect the different ways of saying, and punctuating, the same thing.Hajor 19:22, 29 Mar 2004 (UTC)
May I just compliment you on the truly beautiful way in which you spelled and punctuated that statement. :D - IMSoP 23:17, 30 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Still it would be nicer to read articles in English more familiar terms. Nichalp 18:56, Apr 5, 2004 (UTC)
The previous two paragraphs were out of order so I reversed them and I think they make now sense more.... Meanwhile I'd really hate seeing some robot trying to fudge punctuation back and forth between AE and BE styles. It would probably be messy, but mainly I think we have a good setup with American quotes but British sanity in their placement -- commas and all outside the quotes when appropriate. This American knee-jerk aberration of putting them inside always drove me bonkers. ;Bear 22:55, 2004 Apr 24 (UTC)

Current policy on Spelling not good enough

Is the current policy of using American or International spelling depending on the context good enough, now that we have categories? It is rather jarring to have an article in which International spelling is used throughout in a category spelt in American. ··gracefool | 04:14, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)

How can we trust you if you can't even spell spelled right? Ortolan88 02:49, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC) (Warning: "joke")
You shouldn't trust me anyway ;) Actually, spelt is correct spelling :P ··gracefool | 04:54, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I'll see your dictionary.reference.com and raise you the Oxford English Dictionary which says, preferred form first: spell, v.2 Pa. tense and pple. spelled, spelt. The real point is that Wikipedia has made a reasonable compromise between English and American spelling conventions, which is, use one consistently within an article, use one consistently as regards subject matter (English or American) and don't sweat the small stuff. (I would say that the historical trend in English is to shed complications, which would include spelling aeroplane as airplane, etc.) Ortolan88 05:50, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I agree. Down with prescriptionism. I guess I'm still used to paper, where mixing spelling that looks very unprofessional. I'll get used to it. ··gracefool | 06:18, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC)
What in the name of Noah Webster is "International spelling?" If you mean to imply that British English as used throughout the Commonwealth is the most "international" form of English, then you are sadly misinformed. English as spoken throughout Latin America, East Asia, and much of Africa and the Middle East—owing to missionaries, expatriate teachers, international business, and American-educated upper castes—exhibits a decidedly "American" flavor, and while British colonialism has resulted in the imposition your peculiar dialect on much of the world, this is by no means the universal status quo. Austin Hair 11:29, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)
International English is the English that has not adopted Noah Webster's arbitrary changes to spelling. It is defined in the first paragraph of British English. It scarcely matters if it is 'international' amidst second-language speakers of English (although it really is; almost everyone from Europe spells in Commonwealth English, as do many others), it is the English language as written in the various countries whose first language is English. Of all English speaking countries, American spellings are favoured solely in the USA, so it cannot rightfully be called International English. What is termed as International English is not only the English of the Commonwealth of Nations, but also of other countries, such as Ireland.
Regardless of your attitude towards the name, 'International English' and derivatives such as 'International spelling of English' are quite commonly recognised (alternatives exist, such as World English or Global English). You do not help any to resolve the issue brought forth by Gracefool by quarrelling about the use of a specific term which you evidently understand. (Truth be told, neither am I.) —Sinuhe 12:26, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
You mean the spelling reforms which were being widely implemented on both sides of the pond, before popular opinion deemed them "American?" (Even then, British speakers didn't see fit to revert the changes to words like "musick" and "magick," or normalizing Ys as long Is. But that's hardly the point.)
Contrary to popular belief, Europe does not constitute "the rest of the world"—Latin America alone has half a billion people whom many would argue are indeed significant. Even in Europe, and throughout the Commonwealth, British conventions are not universally observed; this is especially the case in the Eastern half of the continent and in the Caribbean and Africa. Neither is it true that "of all English speaking countries, American spellings are favoured solely in the USA," as demonstrated by nations like Nigeria and Jamaica.
Ireland, of course, was part of the United Kingdom until the 1920s, so to try to except it by pointing out that it's not a member of the Commonwealth (it left in 1949) is downright silly. More to the point, "International English" is not a term used by educated commentators, who favor the more accurate and entirely NPOV terms "American English" and "British English." These are the terms which have been used in Wikipedia since the project's inception.
Now, you are entirely correct in pointing out that I did not address gracefool's concerns; indeed, I don't have an answer, except to say that our "let's relax" policy has worked pretty well for us so far. Neither am I crusader on the part of AmE, however—I fully support the Let's Relax policy, and object merely to the use of such POV terminology. Austin Hair 14:32, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)
An aside: Nigeria? Jamaica? I believe they use UK/Commonwealth spellings. Jamaica's currently run by the Labour Party. As for Nigeria, such 419 scam letters that I bother to read seem to be in -- well, a very strange variety of English, but with UK spellings. And, according to the Nigierian embassy in Washington, the country has ministries of "labour" and "defence". (If anyone knows, our Nigeria article certainly could use some facts and figures about how widespread the "official language" English is there: first-language speakers, lingua franca figs, etc.) Hajor 17:54, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
As with any language, there are distinct differences between formal and informal language. The type of language one would use on a government Web site and in names and titles in the political system is clearly formal, and "old-fashioned" spellings persist, just as they did in the US until well into the last century. Austin Hair 23:39, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)
Of course Europe is a part of the rest of the world. The European Union's spelling is British. So it extends the scope of the English-speaking countries, and is therefore international in the way you originally defined it. Why wouldn't it constitute 'the rest of the world'?
I am not arguing for the use of the term 'International English' at all, merely pointing out that it is a term with a recognised meaning regardless of one's opinion of its justification or appropriateness, but the question – on a talk page, mind you – addressed a different issue. Are you implying that, having used the term 'International spelling', Gracefool is not educated?
By the way, to claim that 'American English' and 'British English' are entirely neutral expressions is not exactly correct: many might take offence to 'American English' describing solely US English (what about Canadian English and the English as spoken (non-natively) in the rest of the Americas?), or that 'British English' should be describing, say, Australian, Indian or South African English.
I think an easy solution would be to allow alternative text next to categorisation somehow. So while "Category:International organization" might be put on the bottom of European Union, somehow we could have it display as "International organisation", much like with normal links. Sadly, the software would require changing to achieve that, wouldn't it? —Sinuhe 15:28, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Europe does not comprise the entire world. There are locales on this planet which do not geographically reside on the continent of Europe. I cannot see how you could possibly construe my comments as implying that Europe is somehow otherworldly.
My beef, to reiterate succinctly, is that British English is no more "international" than American English. On the part of neutrality, the terms merely describe the origins of the dialects described; one may further subclassify by country, and even further by region. I am no less "human" than you simply because you were born elsewhere on the planet, and vice versa.
As for the problem of categorization, this may be one place alternate text is warranted. Unlike with dates, however, such a user preference would be an explicit statement of preferred dialect, with far-reaching implications. Which should be the default? What other (future) features would make use of this? Should we extend it to include alternate article titles? These are just a few of the questions which will need answering before such a feature is implemented. Austin Hair 23:39, Aug 25, 2004 (UTC)
There is a world of difference between saying that 'Europe is ALL of the rest of the world' and 'Europe is part of the rest of the world'. This is to say, American English is no more international than British English, because – upon scrutiny of the second-language speakers – British English is favoured amongst Europeans. This is merely a counter to your original statement which I thought meant to imply that American English is more 'international' because British English is only used in the Commonwealth of Nations (which could, indeed, be perceived as a single entity).
You said 'Contrary to popular belief, Europe does not constitute "the rest of the world"'. And I believe that it does as much so as South America, Asia, Oceania or Africa. I don't understand what you wish to achieve by the rest of the comment: at no time did I state that Europe is somehow more important than the rest of the world. If it appeared as though that was my intention, I apologise.
To get back to the problem, I don't think a preference could work. It would be too difficult to maintain two or more 'translations' of everything for conversion on-the-fly. Simply for the sake of consistency, articles written in British English should be able to state the alternative text to a category otherwise spelt in American English so that it would appear as appropriate in the article, and vice versa. This way neither brand is favoured any more than the other, and articles, as before the introduction of categories, can maintain consistency. —Sinuhe 08:50, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I certainly never meant to imply that American English was somehow more "international" than British English, but merely that British English isn't as ubiquitous as many of its speakers believe, and the use of such charged and chauvinistic terms should be avoided. As for my comments with regard to Europe, I never meant to downplay Europe's importance, either—by "Europe does not constitute 'the rest of the world'" I meant to say that Europe does not comprise the rest of the world; Europeans are known to overestimate their continent's importance at least as much as Americans do their country, as demonstrated by the terminology in question.
Now, to get back to the point under discussion before I unintentionally hijacked the thread, it's been clear from the start that translating the article text itself according to preference is absolutely impracticable—we would have to either pre-parse article text and store it in the database, nearly doubling the required storage space, or translate on the fly—something we don't have the resources for, by any means. Category titles, however, could more reasonably be handled per dialect preference, though I'm still not convinced doing so would be a good idea. Neither am I convinced that handling it on a per-article basis is the right answer, as you propose. Austin Hair 13:38, Aug 26, 2004 (UTC)
Handling category titles per dialect preference doesn't help much, as the category title will still conflict with the articles in it. ··gracefool | 21:58, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)

A tricky one, given the (understandably) strong feelings on either side. I don't think categories can support a consistent spelling approach though. This would be especially difficult where an entry has multiple categories. In my own field, categories such as that of archaeological sites are so international and so tied in with national identity that it would be quite insulting to force our American colleagues to adopt non-Webster spellings (is that neutral enough?!) for their historic places simply because the main article is archaeology rather than archeology. I'd rather see things left as they are with well-meaning spelling 'corrections' being reverted. It all adds to a nice feeling of diversity and ?tolerance. adamsan 13:17, 25 Aug 2004 (UTC)::Actually archaeology is a bad example as I notice somebody has recently blitzed the article and Americanified everything but the title. Ah well...adamsan 07:56, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Fair enough. I guess that perceived spelling mistakes by most visitors is the price you pay for multilinguialism. ··gracefool | 03:58, 26 Aug 2004 (UTC)
And the only way to fix that, my pretties, is to have a user option for which version of English he/she prefers, and wikipedia automatically switches every word's spelling based on the preference, unless the word is flagged with a tag that says not to change it (e.g., when specifically discussing "archaeology" vs "archeology"). It sure would end these endless time-after-time arguments about what's the right way to spell things and when--in most cases-- Now wouldn't THAT be a great way for our software developers to spend their time! (Oh please don't take this idea seriously...) Elf | Talk 00:00, 27 Aug 2004 (UTC)
Actually, since all English Wikipedians aren't about to settle on one version of English, I suspect that increased tolerance for alternative dialects will be the price (eventually). Michael Z. 15:53, 2004 Sep 8 (UTC)

Consistent spelling

Do we really have a rule to be consistent within an article on color vs. colour? Personally I just always write "color" but always leave "colour" when it's there. There have been a few times that I "fix" what I thought were misspellings but got reverted and then realized it was just an alternate spelling. I think the key here is tolerance. This isn't an issue worth mass-changing anything over, and it's not an issue to get into a revert war over. It probably does make sense to be consistent within an article for this one, though, as it could get quite confusing otherwise. anthony (see warning) 12:53, 5 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I don't know if it is a policy or not, but inconsistent spelling withing an article looks really amateurish. I go by the following rules, which I may have read something similar to in a style guide:
  1. Context - if it's about a U.S. subject, I use U.S. spelling; UK subjects get UK spelling.
  2. Precedence - I try to find out which was the first spelling used, and adjust all spelling to that dialect. So, if 'color' was used and then 'flavour' was added later, I will change it to 'flavor'.
  3. British - being British, I use British spelling if there is no precedent.
PhilHibbs 09:55, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)

As an American, I adhere to American English conventions for spelling (except where the dominant form of the article is British), capitalization (everywhere, per our in-house styleguide), and punctuation (except where prescribed otherwise by the MoS). The Let's Relax policy is a good one, and it seems to have worked well enough for us so far, with the notable exception of some crusading Brits. Austin Hair 00:19, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)

Of course one oughtn't to forget the crusading Americans, upon which one stumbles more often than the other way round I should think. Several of the articles which I began in British English have been knowingly Americanised (and then, of course, reverted). —Sinuhe 19:39, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)
While I've yet to see proven occurences of knowing Americanization, it is true that the dominant spelling convention of an article sometimes shifts during the editing process, eventually leading to a (justified) blanket normalization in the American form; it is also true that certain well-meaning but ignorant editors have been known to make some poorly informed "corrections" from time to time. These changes, however, are almost always made in good faith; only the Brits are blatant in their espousal of "proper" or "international" English. Austin Hair 20:53, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)
Pardon me, but I've seen plenty of instances of my fellow Americans urgently insisting that en:Wikipedia spelling should follow American practices, for a variety of reasons, including the dominance of U.S. webpages, the location of Wikipedia servers, and even the idea that America has somehow become the de facto ruler of the world. I wish I could believe that these people are always being sardonic, but I think many really believe these are reasons to impose American spellings on the English-speaking world. I think the current en:Wikipedia policies encouraging cooperation and tolerance are much more rational than either extreme view and their eagerly editing adherents. — Jeff Q 03:48, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Compare closely and you'll see that this doesn't contradict my statement in any way. Austin Hair 04:31, Sep 9, 2004 (UTC)
Ah, yes. You did say "'proper' or 'international'". I objected to singling out the Brits' blatant statements, when I've seen even more incendiary ones from Yanks. But I see your point. My apologies. — Jeff Q 22:58, 14 Sep 2004 (UTC)

As a fair compromise, Wikipedia should mandate Canadian-English spellings everywhere! Michael Z. 19:19, 2004 Sep 8 (UTC) (joking)

Agreed, so long as it is understood that not every sentence must start with eh. Also, I will revert all edits that try to slip in parkade. func(talk) 04:01, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
See Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Usage_and_spelling for the "rule". Rmhermen 19:40, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)