The only mention of this that turned up in a quick search was a passing mention three years ago. I've just encountered a pending edit on this question where the editor tidied up the question with MathJax and such, but also proposed to change favored to favoured.

My habit when I make edits is to leave such spelling variations alone, along the lines of the (paraphrased) "edits should change the voice of the author as little as possible" philosophy of SE. I see three options for reviewing this proposed edit:

  • Accept: The edit is otherwise perfectly desirable. But, if I were OP, I would be annoyed at having my perfectly fine (to me) spelling changed, and having to make a one-character edit to take the 'u' back out
  • Reject: This seems awfully harsh to the editor, and tosses out a perfectly healthy baby with some vaguely dirty bathwater
  • Improve Edit: Probably the best option, but then I snipe the edit-credit from the edit proposer. especially since I will not, in fact, snipe rep from the edit proposer. (This is the route I took, seeming least objectionable.)

So: What is our policy regarding such style considerations?

  • $\begingroup$ Man, I used the word perfectly a lot in this post. Bleh. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Sep 17 '15 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure that you snipe the edit-credit? I believe I saw my good share of +2 rep over at German.SE where edits were nonetheless immediately superceded by a high-rep user improving it … $\endgroup$ – Jan Sep 17 '15 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan No, I'm not sure. But, I had no idea how to go about finding out whether I would snipe. Of course, now that the time pressure's off, it was trivially easy to find out after the fact -- the $+2$ does indeed show up in the editor's rep history. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Sep 17 '15 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian Improve edit means you approve and then you alter. Hence the rep is given out. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 18 '15 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン Yet another instance of 'SE ignorance crisis', albeit a somewhat minor one. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Sep 18 '15 at 10:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian I don't really understand what you are saying with that. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 18 '15 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン Referring obliquely to our recent discussion about frustrations with the SE model. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Sep 18 '15 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I remember that one, but in that case I think it is rather obvious since you are given five choices: Approve, Improve edit, Reject, Reject and edit, skip. So there are two positive actions and two negative and one neutral. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 18 '15 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン Ah, sorry, I was specifically referring to whether the edit proposer would get the +2 for an accepted edit. The button says "Improve Edit", not "Accept & Improve," which is unlike the "Reject & Improve" button which is explicit about the series of consequences. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Sep 18 '15 at 12:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ meta.stackexchange.com/questions/23869/… $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Sep 18 '15 at 15:03
  • $\begingroup$ @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M This answer to that question sums up well my feelings on the matter. $\endgroup$ – hBy2Py Sep 18 '15 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian the accepted answer doesn't have any conflicts with it. It's accepted because the answerer is a community manager and his stance is the standard SE viewpoint on the matter. That answer shows my feelings too. :) $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Sep 18 '15 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ As an expat being subjected to the inhumane torture that is British English for 8 years, I strongly support exterminating British English from Stack Exchange! Rise against the tyranny! j/k, there shouldn't be a policy for this. Don't change spellings which are correct. $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth Sep 19 '15 at 3:10

I think there is no policy. I don't think we need one - there are werse spelling errors.

While I myself favour an occasional u in some words, I will write sulfur, because it is recommended by the IUPAC. I am also not a native and have learned both spellings incomplete, so you might find posts of mine where I just mix things up. I don't think that is a big problem, as it is still understandable. As I olready said, their r wurse spellin offences.

I also agree, that when it comes to the overall tone of the post, we should change a little as possible. If it's BE or AE or even a mixture... I would say: never mind.

That being said,

your chosen action was the absolutely correct one.

An important service announcement:

Please fill out the edit summary with a proper reason

I know it can be tedious from time to time, especially when already fixing out a whole post. I am the first to admit that I am not doing it all the time. A reason, like it was given in the linked post,

fixed formatting

is basically unnecessary, as this is fairly obvious. In this case it would have been better to write something like:

better formatting with MathJax and mhchem

When you are helping out editing a post, the changes will be visible to the OP. I think it is good practise to give a little more information, than only stating the obvious.

In this case, where you 'rolled back BE' you could have just given that in the reason.

I am thankful we don't have many edit wars here, but if there are any, the edit reason is a very helpful tool to resolve these issues.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.


  • $\begingroup$ Blah blah blah. Markdown doesn't work in edit summaries, so I still prefer comments. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Sep 17 '15 at 5:25
  • $\begingroup$ @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M Do both then! $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Sep 17 '15 at 5:32

In my opinion, we should not recommend whether British or American English should be used in the questions and answers. Accordingly, we should not deliberately change the spelling variant when editing a post (this is something that can happen by mistake, in particular, when the spell checker is set to a different spelling variant). However, either British or American English should be used consistently throughout the post.

Nevertheless, I attempt to at least partly answer the question in the title:

American vs British spelling: Is there a standard?

In addition to normal or colloquial spelling variants of American English and British English, particular spelling variants might be customary in the international technical terminology. Therefore, I looked up some relevant technical terms in the English translation* of the rules for the International System of Units (SI) stipulated by BIPM, international standards published by ISO, and recommendations issued by IUPAC. By way of comparison, I added the American spelling variants that are used by NIST.

aluminium [ISO]
aluminium [IUPAC] but notes “The alternative spelling ‘aluminum’ is commonly used.”
aluminum [NIST]

caesium [ISO]
caesium [IUPAC] but notes “The alternative spelling ‘cesium’ is commonly used.”
cesium [NIST]

deca [BIPM]
deca [ISO]
deca [IUPAC]
deka [NIST]

litre [BIPM]
litre [ISO]
litre [IUPAC]
liter [NIST]

metre [BIPM]
metre [ISO]
metre [IUPAC]
meter [NIST]

sulfur [ISO]
sulfur [IUPAC]
sulfur [NIST]

tonne [BIPM], but notes “In English speaking countries this unit is usually called ‘metric ton’.”
tonne [ISO], but notes “In the English language, this unit is also called metric ton.”
tonne, (metric tonne) [IUPAC]
metric ton [NIST]

* The official record is always that of the French text. This shall be used when an authoritative reference is required or when there is doubt about the interpretation of the text.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .