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Wikitravel talk:Spelling/Commonwealth English proposal

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Moved from Wikitravel talk:Spelling by Evan


I've been thinking about our spelling policy lately, and I'd like to make a proposal. Please read all the way through before responding; this is a complex issue and I've tried to tease out the nuances.

So, I'm an American by birth. Like most other Americans, I read lots of works written by British, Canadian, or Australian people -- the classics of English literature, The Economist, various on-line news sources. My morning newspaper is in French, but the other major newspaper I read is in Canadian English, with that dialect's spelling and syntax rules.

When I read works written with the Commonwealth spelling, I really honestly rarely notice (except when I'm trying to figure out where a piece of text comes from). I don't think I've ever had a reaction to a work written in Commonwealth style that I could even remotely call "offense". Well, OK, not specifically from the spelling -- maybe from the content. B-)

So I find the responses to the Wikitravel spelling policy kind of strange. I have to admit that my first reaction is dismissal -- if someone's sooooo sensitive that seeing honor rather than honour in a text is going to give them the fainting vapours [sic], then, well... good riddance. Working together to make a travel guide requires a modicum of maturity, and if they're going to take that kind of thing that seriously, maybe they're not cut out for the collaboration biz.

But I'd like to give the people who have problems with this policy the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure most of us are very reasonable people, and that this spelling issue is a real problem for some of us. I'm just trying, in my head, to work out why.

  • My best guess has to do with the nature of Wiki editing. Subsequent edits to one's contributions to a Wiki page seem like corrections. If you see an article you worked on have incorrect punctuation removed, you probably think, "Oh, I did that wrong, and somebody corrected it." But if you seen an article where you wrote harbour changed to harbor, you may think, "There's no reason to correct that! Harbour is the right spelling! How dare anyone say I was wrong?" It's seen as an unfair and undeserved rebuke.
  • I think also there's a mistake in seeing any part of our manual of style as a description of "right" versus "wrong". Most of what we have, in this area, is arbitrary decisions on issues that have no right or wrong answer. Usually there's some slight justification, but more often than not things are pretty much a toss-up. We have this manual because they're a toss-up, and without it people would do the same thing in different ways everywhere.
So, if those are the problems -- that edits towards the MoS seem like unfair rebukes, and that having an entry in the MoS seems like a moral judgement -- then we've got some education to do. The problem is one of clarity in our policies and their source, not one of the actual policies.
  • I also think that people use the difference in spelling rules between the USA and the rest of the world as the source for well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) ribbing. Americans are so dumb they don't know how to spell "centre", one might say. Canadians don't even know that there's no "u" in "flavor". Picking one kind of spelling for our site might seem like we're taking sides in this fairly sophomoric debate. Again, this may be a point where we need to improve our explanation and user education, although I'd be pretty embarassed to even dignify the idea that we're going one way or another in that game with an answer.
  • All of those are problems that are going to happen if we choose Commonwealth or American spelling. They're kind of symmetric that way. But I think that there's probably some deeper source to this particular problem that's particular to Commonwealth English speakers. If I was going to try to project, my liberal San Francisco opinion is that people in Commonwealth countries feel some pressure from American cultural hegemony. Having lots of books, movies, cable TV, etc. in American English may feel like New Zealanders, Aussies, or Brits are being pushed into being American. And our different spelling formats are one differentiator between us. Being asked to write in American style -- or even just to ignore someone else changing words to be in the American style -- may sound like we're asking these people not to be New Zealanders, Indians, Nigerians or Scots anymore. And, y'know, I can see how that would suck.

I don't think Americans feel the same way about Commonwealth spelling, though. Our forebearers did -- that's why people like Noah Webster invented our idiosyncratic spelling rules to begin with. But I think that feeling of resentment and inferiority towards England and the rest of the British Empire is well in the past. Like I said at the beginning, reading honour rather than honor for me is a vague no-op. It may even be a positive, for some Americans, since British-style writing is somewhat "classier" or more cosmopolitan-looking.

I'm not a big fan of the idea that we should make big changes in our manual of style to assuage the sensitive feelings of contributors. I really believe that the traveller comes first, and in making decisions that we should concentrate more on the quality of the resulting guides than on the experience of working on it. But I also think that, all other things being equal, we should probably try to make contributors happy, too. Happy editors are frequent and productive editors. The contributor comes second may be a good article to start. B-)

So, all that said, I'd like to propose this: simply, I think we should change this policy so that we use Commonwealth spelling rules. We're still going to have the 3 "symmetric" problems (anger at being "corrected" unfairly; a belief that a style rule is a moral judgement; and asinine factionalism in the who-is-dumb debate), but I don't think we'll have the last one (pressure on cultural heritage) so much. In short: it doesn't matter so much to Americans, it does matter to other people, so let's try to work it out for them. And that may be a net boon.

But it isn't really a plus if Americans are going to feel the same way as Commonwealth folks. I'm worried that I'm projecting my own indifference on spelling rules to other Americans. So I'd be especially interested in hearing from other Americans. Would you be bothered by Commonwealth spelling? Would it stick in your craw? Commonwealth-English speakers: are you going to feel condescended to if we make this change?

Thanks for reading this far. Comments, questions, and ideas welcome. --Evan 13:11, 4 Jun 2005 (EDT)

I think you may have identified some good issues for thought there that go beyond the Spelling guidelines. Maybe we need to clarify the whole concept of "policies" (maybe using a different word-- "guidelines"? "style suggestions"? or just "consistancy"?).
And consistancy is really the point here. As a long-time expat, I currently couldn't tell you if I learned to spell "gray" or "grey" back in the US-- I've just seen it both ways too many time, but I would probably noticed if both were used in the same article or book, and it would seem like a mistake.
I'm going to throw in my support for your suggested change to Commonwealth in the interest of consistancy and with the caveat that folks will continue to have to fix my spelling anyway. Majnoona 13:32, 4 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Firstly, I agree with Maj: My main problem (such that I have one) with the current spelling "policy" has been that it seems to have been alienating people who could make good contributions to Wikitravel. A softer "guideline", whatever that is, would be less likely to do this. The particular sentence "But editors may come through and switch those over to American English, just for consistency." I think could also do with a bit of toning down. Perhaps the general tenor should be that "editors" will only edit out spellings that look incongruous within an article, ie. keep the spelling adopted by most of the article.
I agree with Evan that what people probably get upset about is the perceived cultural imperialism of imposing a "minority" english spelling style. This is compounded by the "inferiority" / perceived lazyness of american spelling, which runs contrary to the natural spelling of people used to the Indo-European (well certainly Romance) languages (eg. El/Il Centro, Le Centre, Le Metre, Couleur)
My preference beyond this however, would be to choose the english spelling / idioms most appropriate to the country being written about. Why? Because for "real" travellers, much of travel is about imbibing / relating to the local people / culture, and language is a key part of this (hence all the excellent Phrasebooks people have produced here). What could this mean? Starting with the easy part, the USA articles would use American English, Canadian use Canadian English, and so on for the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. This would obviously also apply to their (former) overseas territories: Puerto Rico, Hong Kong... Then for the slightly harder bit... As most of the European countries have an affinity with Commonwealth English (ie. traditionally taught in schools, Romance lanaguages (see above)) etc. then they should use this as well. The European influence in Africa would probably imply the same. South America's Spanish influence would lead towards Commonwealth English (although some countries are fairly USA centric). That just leaves the Middle East, Asia (exc. India etc.) and Central America to discuss...
Failing that being agreeable, I would certainly personally prefer a preference for Commomnwealth English in all countries except the USA (and it's protectorates). -- DanielC 16:02, 4 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Thanks for considering the proposal, and for your well-considered response. I just want to throw why I don't think the "most appropriate to the country" (MAC) is not going to lead to consistant guides. Consider a guide to Northeastern US-- Main, Quebec, etc... and I can think of other examples of guides spanning country borders which would result in internal inconsistancies in a guide. (BTW, in Canada both American and Commonwealth spelling are acceptable, as long as it's consistant (though technical/scientific publications lean towards Commonwealth)). I dont think there are any published travel guides that use the MAC style, and really, wouldn't it require not using English at all for non-English speaking countries? I also don't like facing the task of mapping out which English every country uses, or should use. It seems oddly imperialistic to split the world up this way.
Finally, would you really object to Commonwealth spelling for USA guides?
Thanks! Majnoona
First, I find Evan's comments about Americans being laid back in their superiority while Commonwealthies are uptight about their spelling and "American cultural hegemony" to be vaguely offensive and I don't think this is a productive argument in any sense.
Really? It seems pretty clear to me that there are some people who are pretty PO'd about spelling. After all, that's why we have a fairly big talk page, here. Would it be easier to swallow if I framed it in a gruesomely anti-American way? How about, Americans are too dumb to realise that different spelling rules are a pointed insult, so we can go ahead and screw them over without getting any complaint. B-) In any event, here's my point: I don't think "We prefer Commonwealth spelling" is going to be as controversial as "We prefer American spelling", so let's just get the switch done and put the issue behind us. --Evan 16:21, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Second, while I think Evan's offer of converting the entire Wikitravel into Commonwealth spelling is quite generous, I don't think it's sensible or practical — it's a huge amount of effort for minimal gain, and are Wikitravel's American contributors really going to start standardibing their colours, contrary to what they've been taught in school since grade 1, just because some obscure style guideline says so?
Third, I agree with Evan's earlier suggestion that attempting to delineate vague zones of cultural influence is an area fraught with uncertainty and not a mess we want to get into.
So here's my proposal: Commonwealth countries as defined here, plus Ireland, use Commonwealth spelling. Every other place (including Europe outside the UK/Ireland) defaults to American spelling. In practice, I think this is near-identical to DanielC's suggestion of using the local variant of English, only without the fuzzy boundaries for regions that don't have English as a main language. Jpatokal 23:12, 4 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I dunno if limiting Commonwealth spealling to the Commonwealth is right at all, since as the anon contributor above mentions it's British english which Europeans learn in school, not American english.
Here's an idea: The international organizations in Geneva use an english spelling standard which is a (totally arbitrary) mix of British and American spellings. Let's adopt that! Or, we could make up our own spelling dictionary. That's what Webster did to start this mess after all. -- Mark 03:10, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
If I'm understanding Evan correctly, content is far more important than spelling, and no one is going to chastise me for making contributions that use "color" instead of "colour", so I'm fine with whatever people decide on. If I write "color" and someone later changes it, I'm more than happy to defer to those who choose to use excessive numbers of vowels, just as I understand that Nzpcmad will come along and fix up all of my standard misspellings on a regular basis ;)
In addition, seeing as the policies are created for guidance in cases of differences of opinion, having a single spelling preference for all articles (in this case Commonwealth) helps resolve cases where the topic might be ambiguous, such as the aforementioned itineraries or regions, so I would vote for a single choice. That said, like Evan, I'm surprised by the passion this issue has brought out in people -- who knew so much time and thought would be brought to the "tomato" / "tomatoe" debate? -- Wrh2 03:26, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Formal English teaching in Europe (or at least Finland) does veer towards British spelling — however, the American Cultural Hegemony(tm), including things like university textbooks, means that American spellings are still more common in practice. But again, as English is not a first language in the countries in question, I have a hard time seeing any Finn, Swede or Lichtensteiner getting up in arms about the spelling chosen; based on the flamage above, it's the Brits, Ozzies and Kiwis who get their knickers in a twist if forced to use Americanese. Jpatokal 03:32, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
No one is asking the "Brits, Ozzies and Kiwis" to use Americanese any more than I'm going to use Commonwealth if we decided to go with it. This isn't and never has been about asking anyone to channg how they write. It's just a matter of avoiding edit wars over corrections. Majnoona 14:49, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I don't want to get involved in the minutiae of this debate - potentially a massive time-waster when there are good travel articles to be written / enhanced (and I have my doctorate to write as well!) - BUT I would like to second Mark's proposal of adopting the flexible approach to spelling English in an international manner, i.e. allowing regional /dialectal variation and local nuance, à la good practice by the international bodies in Geneva and elsewhere. A mix of both American and Commonwealth spellings, side by side...
My personal philosophy would be one of common sense: you're never going to get complete agreement and adherance, so just relax and get on with the writing, in whatever variety of English spelling you're used to.... I'm not even sure that consistency within an article is a complete necessity (<sarcasm>"Oh my goodness, I can't use this article on Zambia for my travels! One paragraph mentions a city centre and this one mentions a town center....! Too much to bear....!</sarcasm>), even if it is a worthy ideal.
Let's face it: both American and British Commonwealth spellings are completely valid and entirely mutually understandable. Why insist on on or the other? An international flux of acceptable spellings far more closely replicates the travel experience in any case - Would any sane American refuse to travel to the UK simply because "they spell things different there"? Likewise, would any sane Aussie (and I'm not including myself amongst that group!) refuse to travel to work in New York simply because s/he couldn't get their head around the spelling regime? Of course not! Too much insistence within this area will only lead to a slew of further stylistic debates: about split infinitives, relative pronouns, Harvard commas [1] and ending sentences in prepositions (and this is something "up with which I will not put!"...). Let's get real here: Accept the fact that there is variety within English (and amongst travellers), celebrate it, and (dare I say?) encourage it! Pjamescowie 04:29, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
My main concern is the perceived level of quality in a work that has mixed spelling rules. It looks really, really bad to me when a piece of text is poorly and inconsistently spelled; when the punctuation is really variable; and when formatting and layout is variable.
I imagine a future traveller picking up The Wikitravel Guide to Europe and calling our editorial offices. "I find it hard to read since there are so many spelling mistakes." "No, there are very few mistakes," we'll say. "There are just different spelling rules for different countries. Within the countries, we're really careful to spell correctly." "Why do the spelling rules change from country to country?" "Oh," we'll say, "well, France is close to the UK, so we use British spelling for that section, but Germany has a lot of American military bases, so we use American spelling for those sections." "But what about Dusseldorf?" asks the traveller. "It's got British spelling." "Actually, that's Australian spelling," we'd have to admit. "The guy who started that article was Australian, and we didn't change any of the spelling so it wouldn't hurt his feelings." "Did you change anything else?" "Well, sure. We changed everything else. Except the spelling."
I think it's an extremely cheap win to take care of spelling and other minor items and we have a vast pool of intelligent people on the Internet who enjoy very much making these kind of small detail-oriented changes. All we need to worry about is giving them reasonable, consistent and simple style goals to edit towards. I think we need to remember that the traveller comes first and make sure that we concentrate on the quality of the work. --Evan 13:53, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Well it seems like the only thing that will make people happy is that if we don't allow any spelling corrections. No one seems interested in consistancy of style. Apparently any attempt at guidelines is forcing people to do something they don't want to and will deeply insult some percentage of the world. No one seems to understand that we're not asking anyone to write any differently than they already do. All I'd like is to not have an centre/center edit war on every single page. I really don't care if we go with IPA or Commonwealth or the UN or pig latin, just as long as we can get back to actually _writing_ the guides and people who like to edit don't need to defend each and every edit they make. I mean, should we just give up on templates and naming conventions and any sort of framework at all? Majnoona 14:49, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Quite a collection of strawmen we have here... which user was it again who was proposing total anarchy?

Allow me to posit the following: Wikitravel's writers mostly live in or near the places they write about, and they are thus likely to follow the local conventions of spelling. However, if a writer ventures outside his local area, he will also understand if his writing is modified to suit the standard.

So isn't the obvious solution to standardize on the local spelling in cases where a standard clearly exists, and default to American when in doubt? Jpatokal 01:14, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Here's the problem I see with your reasoning: there will often be people doing the original contributions who live near where they write about (I'm not sure it's most, but it's a moot point).
However, the people who do editorial-style changes -- re-formatting, layout, and, yes, spelling corrections -- are usually generalists. They work on any article in the guide, regardless of its subject. I present, for example, our spelling hero Nzpcmad, who is from New Zealand but spell-checks articles of any stripe. He's not the only one -- there are lots of us. For those globalists, having a single, clear, consistent spelling policy makes life a lot easier. Not to mention those like Nzpcmad who use automated tools like spell-checkers.
But any half-decent spell checker, or half-decent content editor (pretty much by definition more clued-in than the average Wikitravel newbiw), will accept both American and Commonwealth forms. I haven't seen Nzpcmad go on a rampage hunting down either centers or centres yet. Jpatokal 09:34, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Are you joking, or do you not remember writing this? --Evan 10:40, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Oh, I do remember writing that, but he was just enforcing policy. As far as I can see, after my objection at the time, Nzpcman appears to have kindly refrained from 'correcting' Commonwealth spellings. Jpatokal 11:18, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Nobody has to learn, or follow, any rule in the manual of style. We've always emphasized content over format -- "Please, give us your knowledge!" The only value of having style rules is for anal-retentives like yours truly who compulsively neaten articles. For those of us whose contribution is to copyedit, having a global style manual keeps us from butting heads unnecessarily.
So, here's the $64,000 question: can you live with seeing ... the centre of the continent... in the Minot article? Really, I promise: we're not going to make Alexwcovington self-criticise for harbouring [sic] counterrevolutionary tendencies by using the "wrong" spelling. No blame, no finger-pointing: just gradual, global and consistent copyediting. --Evan 08:29, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
If we're going to adopt a single uniform standard throughout Wikitravel, we might as well stick with the one we're already using. I mean, the only reason for switching to Commonwealth is to stop Poms/Ozzies/Kiwis from whining, but this will just mean that next it'll be the Yanks who are whining instead. (Also note that, so far, precisely zero people have expressed support for your idea...) Jpatokal 09:34, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I think "whining" is an unfair way to put it; I honestly believe people have some very legitimate concerns that we need to deal with.
I think I understand your point about contributors and their native orthography; I hope you understand my point about global site maintenance and copyediting, too. --Evan 10:32, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Hey. I'll support switching to commonwealth. I was really just making a lame attempt at a lame inside joke when suggesting the use of WHO/UN spelling above.
I'd like to make it absolutely clear to everybody that proper names are not included in this spelling guideline in any case. If people want to spell the name of their restaurant just plain wrong we should spell it the way they do. I think that point has been made above and that everybody seems to agree, but I'd just like to make sure. Otherwise I'm fine with switching. And I'm fine with consistency just because it makes the spelling people's lives easier. -- Mark 10:58, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
So, you know, I actually really like the idea of using UN-style International English (which is, as I read, mostly based on the venerable Oxford English Dictionary). There's even an IANA code for it (en-GB-oed). I think the internationalist message is pretty positive, too. Is this an idea that other people could back? --Evan 11:24, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Works for me! -- Mark 11:31, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
So, everything I've seen says that OED English and UN English are identical. Is it possible for you, Mark, to determine whether the UN follows the OED exactly as a policy thing, or if they just based their standard on the OED, and if there are (or could be) differences between them? Otherwise, I'm hip to run this idea up the flagpole and see who reverts. B-) --Evan 12:37, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I think the idea of changing to Commonwealth Spelling universally is a huge waste of time and am opposed to it. I'm also opposed to using international English in which we spell some words wrong no matter what the travellers' own English variant is. If it matters enough to our Commonwealth contributors (and I don't just mean two anon-ip contributors whose sole contributions were to flame our spelling rules), then I'd like to switch spelling to Commonwealth rules for nations whose most-used language is English and who use Commonwealth spelling more than US Spelling.
All this worry about spelling reminds me of programmers who debate incessantly about how to indent their code. Spelling matters the least in terms of communication. Stuff like how we organize content, how well we express ourselves, whether we have maps, and so forth matter far more. Or, as one programmer put it "I beleive most code should be indented six feet under and covered with dirt." -- Colin 15:04, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I can see why you may be looking for a standard "guideline" english, and if we have to have one, I would much prefer it to be Commonwealth / OED / UN.
However, as far as I can tell, you want people on this site to agree consensus decisions. For me, this means you have to move away from binary decisions to constructive compromise / negotiation; away from arguments , winning/losing and playing "games" to win those arguments. A stable consensus would mean selective use of more sophisticated "rules" than just choosing one of two extremes. These new rules may be slightly more complicated, but that is almost always the price you have to pay to reach a consensus.
In this case, I think leaving US English as the standard for USA articles would keep these articles culturally relevant (and reduce the chances of raising the hackles of some people), be clear and help reduce the number of articles that the keener spellers amongst us need / want to change to the new "standard". -- DanielC 15:22, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I think the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books on the USA and the cities in it are very good and quite relevant, regardless of the spelling system used. I think it's an example of the pathetic fallacy to say that a guide to an area has to use the language and idiom of that area.
I absolutely agree that we need to get to some satisfactory consensus on this issue, but I think it's a mistake to think that the disagreement is over whether to use American English and Commonwealth English, and that per-article rules is a compromise. I had hoped that the disagreement was between using Commonwealth English for articles on Commonwealth-speaking places and having a site-wide American English style guideline. I thought that would resolve neatly by simply changing to a site-wide Commonwealth English style guideline. But it seems like the question is over whether we should bother having a site-wide style guideline at all.
I continue to boggle that anyone believes that our Australia guide is only by and for Australians, or that the USA guide is only by and for Americans, and that people resident of each country get absolute or even preferential control over the guide's form or format. Wherever did that idea come from? Wikitravel is a world-wide travel guide. It is, to coin a phrase, "built in collaboration by Wikitravellers from around the globe."
I am trying to find a way to a mutually agreeable solution, but I am in favor of directing Wikitravel towards being publication-ready, and I'm having a hard time seeing varied spelling rules getting us towards that goal. Also, I'm really, really uneasy about setting up little locals-only fiefdoms where regional rules apply. I know from experience that we can figure out ways to collaborate across national boundaries, and I know that we can do better than regional segregation. --Evan 18:10, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
No one thinks the Australia guide is only for Australians. But it is true that it will written mostly (but not entirely) by Australians. It's just simple fallout from the "write what you know" concept. Also, there are many locations in Australia where the majority of visitors are Australian. So when travellers bring their experience back to Wikitravel from the field, certain Australian articles will receive the contributions from many users, most of whom are Australian.
If we use just one spelling standard, then either we will use US Spelling and some Commonwealth contributors will be less happy; we use Commonwealth Spelling and some US contributors will less happy; or we use International Spelling and some US and some Commonwealth contributors will be less happy.
Or we can allows local English spelling to be used in some cases. This appears to pacify most of the folks who are unhappy with using the nonlocal spelling rules. It makes spellchecking harder, and bothers folks who prefer consistency. It possibly bothers someone who wants to make a printed guide too.
Or we could just leave the status quo. Right now, no one actually enforces the spelling rule (except to revert changes where a US-spelled article is switched to Commonwealth). It's nice that we have a rule that can be used as a tiebreaker if ever a dispute does arise. But this doesn't exactly help make for a consistent printed guide either.
I think we should concern ourselves first with the traveller (who I think doesn't actually care about this much) and second with the contributors. So which policy is likely to improve the happiness of contributors? There are no perfect solutions here, someone will be unhappy. I think the question is really "which solution causes the least amount of unhappiness among contributors." -- Colin 18:33, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
It would sure be nice if, as with phone numbers, we could find a solution that worked nicely for everyone. Maybe we just need to take a little time to find it? And I guess until then, we'll stick with American English spelling. --Evan 18:54, 6 Jun 2005
As far as I can tell, no one has piped up to complain about the idea of Commonwealth spelling in US articles. It seems like it's the Commonwealthers who are assuming Americans will complain... At this point I'm about ready to argue against American spelling ...
And does someone want to explain to me how we'd manage the travel topic and other non-geographical articles if we went for inconsistancy? What would we call an article about soccer/foot ball (I mean besides Soccer/Football or Football/Soccer)? Majnoona 20:39, 6 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Easy enough: Wikitravel can default to American spelling and explicitly allow exceptions as needed. Jpatokal 03:38, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I would prefer WikiTravel to use Commonwealth English, but I think we should use the same spelling in all articles. --elgaard 05:01, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Buggar! Are you guys seriously considering changing the spelling convention? I have just got my head around all those American alternative spellings. If you do go ahead with this proposal I will have to get my head around British, Australian, Canadian, South African and New Zealand spelling conventions as well. Also I believe that Commonwealth English spelling is a myth. What you are trying to choose between either we use one acceptable spelling alternative or all alternatives. Basically either leave the U out and spell ise as ize or put the U in and don't use the z. From those two differences alone there are 4 possible combinations American, British, Australian and New Zealand English. I hate to say it but the Americans do have the numbers on their side. Which is why I accept the American spelling convention. Change if you really want to, I can accept either, or both, ways. However, the current American Spelling convention is certainly decisive - which is why I like it. However, I would prefer a clear and obvious convention. Perhaps we could tag every page with a spelling convention note! Better yet, perhaps we could have a spelling option in the user preferences that allows the user to select which spelling they want to view the page in. Maybe this should be a Media Wiki feature request! I am only opposed to changing all the historic articles simply for change's sake. The conssequence is the spelling convention is going to devolve into any valid English spelling alternative. If that is the case, I'll cope. But I still think you're all daft for wanting to change after a couple of years of minimal problems with one convention. - Huttite 09:42, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Italics and (sic)[edit]

I think I'd like to see a consistent spelling guideline, as a way of achieving a professional guide. For those apposed to such a guideline I'd like to remind you that you perfectly free to ignore it. People who like to fix spelling (thank you Nzpcmad!) can take the guideline and run with it.

Meanwhile if you are writing a section on culture, or where the name of some thing has a local use which is considered a mis-spelling or a mis-use then by all means use it, and mark it as a non-correct item by putting it in italics. It works! Nzpcmad and I worked this out some time ago over the articles I've worked on which have some French or Italian spellings. Words in italics are not to be spellchecked.

In situations where you can't use italics try (sic). For instance there is a (really great) café (<--note the italics) in Geneva called café Art's. This obvious mis-use of the apostrophy got corrected about a dozen times until one day I added a comment next to the name: <!-- sic: it really is spelled like that on the front window of the café -->.

So, like I said, if you really want to write a section in local spelling and think it's important culturally to keep it that way then by all means go ahead, and just remember to mark the spelling as deliberate, both for the editors and the readers: I do this because i kant spel and I really like it when somebody fixes my spelling, but sometimes I want to write about a caffè or a café or perhaps I want to have writing which reads like sombody talkin' down-home style as per Southern Illinois for whatever reason. Fine. You can do that too. The mechanism already exists and has been working fine for over a year. -- Mark 01:53, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Hear ye hear ye, but I'd suggest extending the "no spellcheckin zone" to italics and hyperlinks as well. There was already a bit of saber-rattling last year over in Malaysia, which among other things has a central train station called Stesen Sentral and a bus company called Transnasional. Jpatokal 03:38, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
One more time: if a proper name really contains mis-spellings then they stay. This has always been the case, and nobody here has suggested that we change that. I have no idea why anybody would get that idea.
If somebody wants to correct Transnasional that's understandable, because it does look like a spelling error. Put this: "(sic)" or optionally <!-- sic --> after it. This is the standard way in English to let editors and copy-editors and readers know that it's not a mistake. Likewise, regardless of if we are using American rules Sydney Harbour is still Sydney Harbour... proper names are spelled the way the people who name the thing want to spell them.
You also have the use of italics which are usually used for "foreign" words, or spellings from local usage. This is part of all the standard English spelling rule-sets I know of: American, OED or whatever so there is no reason to extend anything. -- Mark 04:01, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
There's an explaination of (sic) on Wikipedia. -- Mark 05:01, 8 Jun 2005 (EDT)

About International English[edit]

I've started to do some (for me very local) research about the International English, and am going to post the results under this section. Here is the English style guide for the World Health Organization. Of particular interest is Section 5, which contains the list of offical spellings which differ from the Oxford English Dictionary. Many of these though are medical terms which will probably not be of much use to travellers. -- Mark 04:39, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Basically the difference between International English spelling and OED seems to come down to the use of "z" for "s" when the "s" is pronouced as "z", namely ise at the end of a word in the OED is replaced by ize in International. Derivitive words such as Organization (a deriviative of organize) are also covered by this rule. Otherwise UNESCO International style is identical to OED. -- Mark 05:23, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Actually, I think the -ize vs. -ise thing is the difference between OED English and standard British English. --Evan 08:36, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Oh wow! OK, duh, my bad. OED is the thing then. -- Mark 11:42, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
The OED is supposed to reflect "Standard British English". We use ise. -- DanielC 13:14, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Well, it puts the -ize spellings before the -ise spellings. See WikiPedia:Oxford English Dictionary#Spelling. --Evan 13:58, 7 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I've had a look. It seems you are right. I never knew that!!! Don't know why they've done it. I'll have to ring them up and tell them that they are wrong.... -- DanielC 19:03, 8 Jun 2005 (EDT)



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