Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Spelling
This guideline is a part of the English Wikipedia's Manual of Style.
|Manual of Style (MoS)|
The following is a handy reference for editors, listing various common spelling differences between national varieties of English.
Please note: If you are not familiar with a spelling, please do some research before changing it – it may be your misunderstanding rather than a mistake, especially in the case of American and British English spelling differences.
- 1 English spelling comparison chart
- 2 Other spelling differences
- 3 International organizations
- 4 Tools and reference articles
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
English spelling comparison chart
This table gives the accepted spellings (following government guidelines and major dictionaries). It is by no means exhaustive, but rather an overview. When two variants appear, the one listed first is more widely used. (For example, in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and Ireland, ageing is more common than aging; in Canada and the US, aging is more common.)
The spelling systems of unlisted Commonwealth countries, such as India, Pakistan and Singapore, are generally close to the British spelling system, with possibly a few local differences. Some non-Commonwealth English-speaking countries, such as the Philippines and Liberia, have spelling systems closer to American spelling.
With some exceptions, boxes in green show use of British spellings and those in violet show use of U.S. spellings. Boxes in pink indicate that both spellings are used.
|UK & Ireland||South Africa||New Zealand||Australia||Canada||United States|
|acknowledgement||acknowledgement||acknowledgement||acknowledgement, acknowledgment||acknowledgement, acknowledgment||acknowledgment|
|ageing, aging||ageing, aging||ageing, aging||ageing, aging||aging, ageing||aging, ageing|
|all right||all right||all right||alright, all right||all right||alright, all right|
|co-operation||co-operation||co-operation||cooperation, co-operation||co-operation, cooperation||cooperation|
|jail, gaol||jail, gaol||jail||jail, gaol||jail||jail|
|judgement, judgment||judgement, judgment||judgement||judgement, judgment||judgment, judgement||judgment|
|license (n.) and (v.)|
|organisation, organization||organisation, organization||organisation||organisation||organization, organisation||organization|
|practice (n. and v.)|
|routeing, routing||routeing, routing||routeing, routing||routeing, routing||routing||routing|
(fault and tool)
(fault and tool)
(fault and tool)
(fault and tool)
|yogurt, yoghurt, yoghourt||yoghurt, yogurt||yoghurt, yogurt||yoghurt, yogurt||yogourt, yogurt, yoghurt, yoghourt||yogurt, yoghurt|
|UK & Ireland||South Africa||New Zealand||Australia||Canada||United States|
- See Notes for explanations of the references above.
Other spelling differences
Throughout this section, the variants here regarded as "British" are also used in Australia (in most cases), as well as in other Commonwealth countries and in Ireland. Canadian spelling combines British and American.
In both British English and American English, many words have variant spellings, but most of the time one variant is preferred over the other. In dictionaries, the preferred spelling is listed first among the headwords of an entry. Examples follow:
- acknowledgement vs acknowledgment: acknowledgement is preferred in British English, acknowledgment in American English.
- judgement vs judgment: judgement is preferred in British English (except in the sense of a judge's decision, in which case judgment is preferred), judgment in American English.
- per cent vs percent: per cent is preferred in British English, percent in American English.
- dialogue vs dialog: In a non-technical context, the spelling dialogue is preferred in American English. In Webster's dictionary, dialogue is given first, and Chambers also indicates dialog is less used in North America.
- catalogue vs catalog: Webster's treats this case differently, as does Chambers—catalog is the preferred spelling in American English.
- glamour vs glamor: The spelling glamour is preferred in both British and American English. (Glamourous is sometimes found in American English, but is usually considered incorrect in British English, where glamorous is the only accepted form.)
- foetus vs fetus: In American English, foetus is never used. In British English, usage is divided. In academic literature, fetus is preferred.
- aluminium vs aluminum: aluminum is the prevalent spelling throughout North America; however, in scientific literature aluminium should be used, as recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. (The two spellings also have different pronunciations.)
- sulphur vs sulfur: sulphur is the prevalent spelling outside North America; however, in scientific literature sulfur should be used, as recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. (see Sulfur#Spelling and etymology)
- caesium vs cesium: cesium is the prevalent spelling throughout North America; however, in scientific literature caesium should be used, as recommended by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.)
- gramme vs gram: gram is the more common spelling; gramme is also possible in British usage.
Older sources use many archaic variants (such as shew for show), which are not to be used outside quotations except in special circumstances (for example, quire may be used instead of choir in architectural contexts).
When archaic spelling is used in the title of a work, modernize the spelling in the text of the article but retain the original spelling in the references. For example, the text of an article might read "Thomas Ady attacked the Demonology of King James..." while the citation should read Daemonologie, In Forme of a Dialogie, Diuided into three Bookes. By James Rx, 1597....". Adding a <!-- comment --> may help prevent well-meaning editors from correcting the spelling "mistakes".
As per WP:Manual of Style § Quotations, archaic glyphs should be modernized, including within quotations and titles (e.g., æ→ae, œ→oe, ſ→s, and ye→the). Archaic spellings (including capitalization, punctuation, and emphasis that would be non-standard today) are retained in quotations, and we rarely need to provide any translations into Modern English if the source material is Elizabethan or later. For Middle English, treat it on a case-by-case basis, but always provide translation for Old English.
Different spellings, different meanings
Several words change their meaning when spelt differently.
- cheque – check: to check is to ensure; outside the US, a bill of exchange drawn on a bank payable on demand is a "cheque".
- kerb – curb: In British English, 'kerb' is the edge of the road or pavement (UK) where "kerbstones" can be found. In the US, it is spelled "curb", and may be attached to a sidewalk. "To curb" is to limit or control in either dialect.
- disc – disk: Outside of computing, in British English the usual spelling is disc (meaning a thin flat circular object); in American English disk and disc are normally interchangeable. However, in computing (in both British & American English), disk usually refers to magnetic disks, as in hard disk drives, dating back to the first magnetic disks used by US-developed mainframe computers. Disc usually refers to optical discs, beginning with the Compact Disc (developed outside the US) and continuing with DVD (the last "D" of the acronym usually meaning "disc" regardless of its uncertain etymology), Blu-ray Disc, and even defunct formats such as HD DVD.
- draught – draft: In the UK draft is a preliminary version of a document, while draught is a drink or a current of air; all are usually spelled "draft" in the US, but "draught" has been making a comeback in reference to beverages.
- enquiry – inquiry: for most British writers, an enquiry is a request for information, but an inquiry is a formal investigation.
- ensure – insure: To ensure is to make sure. In British English, to insure is to take out an insurance policy. In American English, to insure is sometimes used instead of to ensure.
- judgement – judgment: In Australian and British law, a judge's decision in a case is always spelt judgment. On the other hand, the forming of opinion or conclusion by an ordinary person is usually spelt judgement.
- metre – meter: in most countries other than the US, metre is the metric unit of length, and meter is a measuring device; in these dialects metre is also the rhythm of a line of verse, but the word as part of the technical name of a given metre (pentameter, hexameter, etc.) is spelled -meter.
- programme – program: In British English, the spelling program can be used for computer program. In all other cases, programme is invariably used. In Australia, program is widespread in all contexts.
- storey – story: a story is a tale; outside of the US, upper floors of buildings are spelt "storey".
- theatre – theater: Many uses of either spelling can be found in American English. Both theater and theatre are commonly used among theatre professionals. The spelling theatre can be seen in names like the Kodak Theatre and AMC Theatres. However, the spelling theater is used for the various venues at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and all major American newspapers, such as The New York Times's theater section to refer to both the dramatic arts as well as to the buildings where performances take place. The Columbia University Guide to Standard American English states that "theater" is used except in proper names.
- tyre – tire: In American and Canadian English, tire is used to refer to "fatigue" and the inflated rim of a wheel. In British and other forms of English, tire means 'to fatigue' and tyre is the inflated rim of a wheel.
There are three major English spelling standards used by international organizations and publishers:
British English with "-ise"
Spellings: centre, programme, labour, defence, organisation; recognise, advise, devise, advertise, and analyse
Language tag (a code identifying the language used): en-GB.
Examples of organizations adhering to this standard: European Union (EU), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Commonwealth Secretariat (Commonwealth of Nations), African Union (AU), Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), International Olympic Committee (IOC), Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Transparency International, Greenpeace. The UK government does not seem to have an official position on spelling, though it often uses this variant in communications.
British English with "-ize" (Oxford spelling)
Spellings: centre, programme, labour, defence, organization; recognize, but: advise, devise, advertise, and analyse
Language tag: en-GB-oxendict
Oxford spelling is based on the Oxford English Dictionary, and followed by Collins and Cassell's dictionaries, whereas Chambers lists both ‑ize and ‑ise for British English. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary notes that "the form ize has been in use in English since the 16th century. The alternative spelling ise (reflecting a French influence) is in common use, especially in British English".
Examples of organizations adhering to this standard: United Nations organizations (UN, WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, ITU, ILO, etc.), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), UK Armed Forces and Ministry of Defence, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Amnesty International, World Economic Forum, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Spellings: center, program, labor, defense, organization; recognize, but: advise, devise, advertise, and analyze
Language tag: en-US
Tools and reference articles
- User:Ohconfucius/EngvarB – Script to convert the entire contents of a page from American spelling to British spelling (with an option for using Oxford spelling – the default operation being non-Oxford British English)
- Comparison of American and British English
- American and British English spelling differences
- See Category:Varieties of English templates to explicitly identify a national style of spelling.
- Chambers 2003; There are two British English spelling standards, with different requirements for -ise and -ize suffixes; see International organizations above.
- South African Concise Oxford Dictionary. Cape Town: Oxford University Press Southern Africa. 2002. ISBN 0195718046.
- The New Zealand Oxford Paperback Dictionary. Auckland, N.Z: Oxford University Press. 1998. ISBN 0195584104.
- Yallop, C., ed. (2005). Macquarie Dictionary (4th ed.). North Ryde, N.S.W: Macquarie University. ISBN 1-876429-14-3.
- Barber, Katherine, ed. (2004). Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.). Don Mills, Ont: Oxford University Press. p. xiii. ISBN 0-19-541816-6.
The main headword represents the most common form in Canadian usage.
- Chambers 1998, p. xx.
- Merriam–Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.). Springfield, Mass: Merriam-Webster, Inc. 2003. ISBN 0-87779-809-5.
- Except in the name Australian Labor Party.
- Chambers 1998, p. 13; Oxford Advanced 1974, p. 8; while Collins 1997, p. 898 lists 'acknowledgement' as the only entry.
- Chambers 1998, p. 445.
- Chambers 1998, p. 255.
- "Definition of gram (Brit. also gramme)". OxfordDictionaries.com. Oxford University Press. 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
- "gram or gramme". Chambers 21st Century Dictionary. Chambers Publishers Ltd. 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
- Learning English | BBC World Service
- Peters, p. 285: "But in North American English insure covers both meanings, and ensure is simply a variant spelling." (Emphasis as original.)
- Peters, Pam (2004). "storey or story". The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 517. ISBN 0-521-62181-X.
- "Theater section". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
- Wilson, Kenneth G. (1993). "theater, theatre". The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 435.
- Oxford Advanced 1974, pp. viii, 29, 228, 477, 602, 678, 715; and Oxford Illustrated 1976.
- Collins 1997.
- Cassell 1985.
- Chambers 1998, p. xx.
- Allen, Robert, ed. (1990). "Definition of -ize". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English (8th ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-861243-5.
- The Chambers Dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers. 2000 . ISBN 0-550-14000-X.
- The Chambers Dictionary (9th ed.). Edinburgh: Chambers. 2003. ISBN 0-550-10013-X.
- Hornby, Albert S.; Cowie, Anthony P.; Lewis, Jack W., eds. (1974). Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-431102-3.
- Rébora, Piero; Guercio, Francis M.; Hayward, Arthur L., eds. (1985) . Cassell's Italian-English, English-Italian Dictionary: Dizionario Italiano-Inglese, Inglese-Italiano (7th ed.). London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-52253-8.
- The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary. Great Britain: Oxford University Press. 1976 .
- Terrell, Peter (1997). Collins German-English, English-German Dictionary (3rd ed.). Glasgow: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-470580-7.
- "British Spelling standards". Ars Semantica. 12 August 2006.
- "Dave VE7CNV's Truly Canadian Dictionary of Canadian Spelling". Dave VE7CNV. 2007.