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Wikitravel talk:Spelling

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To discuss the way the spell checker (which is a "special" page that doesn't have its own talk page) works, please use Wikitravel_talk:List_of_common_misspellings - thanks.

Please use this page to discuss spellings, spelling policy, etc.

Some sub-pages[edit]

Moved from Wikitravel talk:FAQ by Evan

You can prefer US spelling but that doesn't mean you're going to get it, especially as long as I'm writing for you... I am Australian and I use a mixture, but generally British spelling with occasional American phraseology (especially since my fiance is a Yank and he's corrupting me!) Anyway, if you want my articles to be US-oriented someone's going to have to go along and change them... at which point they'll get messed up again next time I edit them. I really think it doesn't matter one way or the other anyway. There's no way to enforce it other than to have the Americans go along and reedit everyone else's contributions for US-satisfaction. KJ 22:05, 8 Aug 2003 (PDT)

Actually, thinking about it, it would probably be better to ask people to use CONVENTIONAL English of either kind. Which means, run their contributions through a spellchecker if they can't spell, not to use 'internet speak' etc. Color vs colour is a minor quibble, but do we really want some well-meaning but ignorant teenager coming along and writing 'BlAh BlAh iz kool. Go ThEeR nOw.' etc. Ugh! KJ 22:47, 8 Aug 2003 (PDT)

I entirely agree with KJ. I do not generally use American spelling and I am not going to use it on WikiTravel. If this potentially very interesting site is going to be built in collaboration by Wikitravellers from around the globe as you state on the main page, then you'll have to accept that other spellings are going to be used. Otherwise you'll risk chasing away valuable contributors. I have absolutely nothing against American spelling (I am not going to change American spelling into British spelling when I see it), but I believe that people should be left free to make their own choices. I propose to change this request into One of the traditionally accepted English spellings should be used. (I include the word traditionally to exclude the BlAh BlAh iz kool example given above.) D.D. 08:57, 9 Aug 2003 (PDT)
So, the idea with this is to avoid having trivial edit wars where two people switch the words "harbor" and "harbour" back and forth until the cows come home. It was an arbitrary choice, mostly made because me and Maj are Americans. I know it probably sounds fine to say "It doesn't matter," but that doesn't wash with me. I like having consistency in the work. In the case of conflict, we can settle an argument by having a good rule.
Wikipedia solves this issue by saying that articles dealing with Commonwealth issues will have Commonwealth spelling, and others will be in American spelling. I think that that's kind of forced for Wikitravel -- is Thailand in Australia's sphere of influence, or America's? What about Antarctica or Disabled travellers? I figure just choosing one spelling style is the best. If anyone has a particular spelling style they write in, that's fine. But if we have a rule, we'll know why stuff gets edited. I'm willing to change it to Commonwealth spelling if we have enough support for it. -- Evan 15:50, 9 Aug 2003 (PDT)
I have no objections to making American spelling the default, but Commonwealth countries where English is an official language should use the local, ie. British spelling. If there's a subway station in Singapore called HarbourFront (NE1), then that's the correct spelling and writing it any other way would be a mistake. I also think saying things like "One of many hawker centers in Singapore is the Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre" looks bizarre to say the least; can't we at least have intra-writeup consistency as in Wikipedia? -- Jpatokal 05:28, 7 May 2004 (EDT)
I don't think that makes sense. The locals in a destination aren't the ones who need a travel guide -- it's people from other places. --Evan 16:08, 8 May 2004 (EDT)
There are circumstances where the American spelling is inappropriate; such as a place or business name - this is clearly spelt out in the policy. In the above example, saying "One of many hawker centers in Singapore is the Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre" is strangely correct for an American as well as being permissable English usage and it complies with the policy too! I can live with using American (English spelling) if Americans can live with my (New Zealand) English usage. Having a consistent intra-article spelling rule means you need to first identify what English language is being used. You could insert a note into every article that This article uses American/British/Commonwealth/??? English spelling or the spelling checker just lists what is an American (or otherwise) spelling. That way Americans can realise both how different and similar their language is to English. Perhaps my idea of various English phrasebooks needs to be revisited as Americans need it. -- Huttite 21:25, 8 May 2004 (EDT)

Locals write the travel guides. I don't see how you can by fiat say that (e.g.) Australians can't use the spelling they grew up with to write articles about their own country.

Wikipedia's policy is simple and proven in practice: "use British spelling when writing about British-related topics, and American for American-related topics." If the country/territory in question is in the Commonwealth and has English as an official language, it will use British spellings and is thus "British-related". Other countries tend to stick with American spelling (unofficially) and are thus "American-related". Jpatokal 00:52, 9 May 2004 (EDT)

I disagree with your argument about locals writing the travel guides. While locals do write travel guides, travellers probably contribute just as much, as those travellers experience what other travellers want to know. It is the audience who is important here, not the writer.
By requiring the use of commonwealth English for Commonwealth articles you are in effect saying that travel articles should only be written in the native language of the country concerned. In the end I think the argument is pretty trivial. There is really only one word that causes any serious spelling problems - that is Centre vs Center - I think there is no confusion that they are referring to the same thing, but alternative spellings. By all means write your English with an Australian spelling but do not be surprised if someone else comes along and corrects it.
Wikitravel is not WikiPedia. There is a different standard here - We prefer to use American spelling. The way I understand Wikipedia's standard is - we don't care which version of English spelling you use, just be consistent and use the same one throughout an article. At Wikitravel, I interpret the policy to be we don't mind if you use commonwealth English spelling when you first write or contribute to an article but do not be surprised or object if we mangle it into an American spelling later.
Personally, my dictionary lists both American and British (commonwealth) spellings as acceptable alternatives, so I won't go out of my way to correct either of them - someone else can do that. I will live with the policy and not change American spellings, though I won't always spell American as I cannot see the British English spelling as a mispelling and don't always know if words have an American spelling alternative. I will leave that to American spellers. -- Huttite 01:49, 9 May 2004 (EDT)
Wikipedia this is not but a Wiki it is -- the standard is what we make of it, not carved in stone. I think the "American English only" policy is silly, and at less than 1% of Wikipedia's size we still have time to change it.
I, personally, am not going to get my panties in a twist if somebody writes up an article on (say) Bermuda in American English, and neither will I be surprised when a Bermudan comes along and corrects the spellings to Bermudan (British) English. I do find it highly irritating if somebody goes through my Singapore article changing every single centre into a center, which flies in the face of how Singaporeans themselves write the language! And do note that I'm writing this as somebody who learned his spelling in New York...
So how's this for a shot at a policy: Spelling should ideally conform to that used in the country in question. Very simple and leaves room for "corrections" if somebody writes in a different flavor of English. Jpatokal 04:52, 9 May 2004 (EDT)
I comprehend, although I find it puzzling, that Commonwealth-vs.-American-English is a hot-button issue for many English speakers. But it's much more important to me to make a good readable travel guide that doesn't distractingly switch spelling conventions on every second article.
I also think that the current spelling rule -- use American English -- is much simpler than your proposed one, keeps things consistent for all articles, and avoids "gray areas" that can cause conflict and difficulties.
This policy makes exceptions for proper names like the HarbourFront subway station you noted. --Evan 15:35, 13 May 2004 (EDT)
I find it rather puzzling myself, the reason for the argument that is. I'm a Canadian, I write in the English language, and teach my students how to spell colour as well. I also tell them it's pronounced "zed" and not "zee", but I digress. I type too poorly to worry too much about it.
I think a lot of the argument stems from the "falling out" that the American people had in their stuggle against their very distant British rulers. The American colonization and quest for independence occured at a point in western development where basic literacy was still a mystery to most of the common people. In struggling to develop a nation of their own, and educate the successive generations, spellings changed and evolved over hundreds of years following the disconnection from the British Monarchy. Loyalists fled north, taking their private tutors with them. Is it any surprise that the English language took a few steps sideways during the first 100 or so years of freedom south of the 49th? I've never heard an American speak with a British accent either... so what?
I do like the idea of using the British spelling for articles concerning Commonwealth Nations, though. It makes more sense according to logic. An American traveller/tourist might make changes/additions/write articles based on their fishing vacation in Lynn Lake, Manitoba, but if someone who actually lives here comes along and corrects or clarifies anything the temporary visitor has mistaken or misconstrued... why shouldn't they be able to make corrections in accordance with the law/language of the land in question? If you are seeking freely given international contributions, you might want to reconsider restricting the text here to the American version of the English language. Just my opinion. Weaponofmassinstruction 22:40, 20 Jan 2005 (EST)
Contributors are always welcome to make contributions according to whatever spelling system they wish. Or misspelled, or idiosyncratically spelled. We're far more interested in having contributors share their knowledge than in having them pore over the manual of style before contributing.
But no traveller gets to preserve their contributions against future edits by other editors -- especially if those edits are to bring the article into MoS form. It's not an insult to have someone change your harbour to harbor. It's not that you did something wrong; it's that we're trying to do something consistent. The traveller comes first on Wikitravel. We are working together to make a world-wide travel guide, here. A hodgepodge of different spelling rules does not serve the traveller -- it just serves the vanity and petty tribalism of contributors.
Let's consider if we wanted to have per-article spelling rules. Of course, we could make destinations in America have American spelling; Britain, Australia, NZ in British spelling; and Canada in that peculiar mishmash of Commonwealth and American spelling that makes it such a great place. Former British colonies like Singapore, Hong Kong, Jamaica, and other Caribbean, African, South American and Asian locales would get their local spelling rules, which are more or less in line with "Commonwealth" spelling, except for those local exceptions. Former American colonies like the Philippines would get American spelling; Cuba would be a toss-up, since it's a former American colony that Americans aren't allowed to go to any more.
That's the easy part. What about places where they don't speak English? We could go by proximity (Sweden goes to British spelling, Mexico goes to American, and Antarctica is spelled in New Zealand style). Of course, Russia would be in American English (since it's just a few miles from Alaska at the Bering Straits). We'd have an interesting line of islands across the Pacific Ocean where proximity to the US and to Australia and New Zealand is equal. Alternately, we could go by volume of travelers that go to different areas. We could go by which spelling system is taught in local schools, or which country's army occupied what percentage of the land from what date to what date. Trade and economic ties, historical friendships or emnities, similarities of skull shape and wheat output.
That doesn't even touch on itineraries. Would a Driving tour of the Pacific Northwest use Canadian or American spelling? Would it switch in the middle of a paragraph, as we crossed the border between Surrey and Bellingham? What about travel topics? Would we use Commonwealth or American spelling in Tips for gay travellers? Should we go by raw volume of gay people in America vs. the rest of the English-speaking world, or by percentage (which should stay kind of the same)? Or by percentage that actually travel, or by percentage that don't travel, since they need the information more?
We could have hundreds hours of fun arguing about which articles should have which spelling style. And at the end of the day, we'd have a patchwork of mismatched articles and a bunch of really cheesed off contributors squabbling with each other. We wouldn't be empowering anyone -- we'd be making a huge ruckus about cross-Atlantic, cross-Pacific, and cross-border differences that should be far less important than the fact that we're a team trying to make a good travel guide.
This spelling rule is not about American spelling -- it's about consistent spelling. If we come to consensus about switching over to Commonwealth spelling, I'm so there. But please -- don't try and drag us into a cesspool of conflict for the sake of a few ours and res. --Evan 08:34, 21 Jan 2005 (EST)
From a purely practical point of view, I might point out that there are about 300 million people in one country who consider American English as their first, primary or only language of common communication. The vast majority of other English dialects do not have that many number of primary users on a per country basis. Considering that the American economy is one of the stronger ones in the world, that country is likely to be a major source of tourists for the rest of the world too. So we are probably mostly writing for American English readers too. Most non-american English dictionaries accept American English spellings as a valid way of spelling words. I also can not think of any words where the meaning is too ambiguous. The point is we have a (perfectly reasonable) Standard that is clear and unambiguous. It may be uncomfortable for non-americans to use American English spelling but comfort of the writer is less important because the traveller comes first. -- Huttite 16:32, 22 Jan 2005 (EST)
You may also want to conside article The President’s English by Paul Brians as a vote in the discussion... -- JanSlupski 18:01, 22 Jan 2005 (EST)
A vote which fails to mention India, Australia and Canada (each of which has it's own fairly clear version of English, none of which is identical to UK English) does indeed, just about, summarise the level of this debate. If this was about "the traveller" then some approximation of "transatlantic" English would be chosen in which the words "pants" and "rubbers" (used for erasing pencil marks) would be avoided because they can cause misunderstandings. Arguing that 1 billion Indians (yes, for many of them English does end up as one of their "primary" language of "common communication") don't deserve to be taken note of because they are temporarily less rich than the Americans is not a hopeful attitude to start a travel guide with. 17:04, 8 May 2005 (EDT)
The conclusion from the size of the American economy that the U.S. "is likely to be a major source of tourists for the rest of the world" is pure supposition. While lack of finance can be a good reason not to travel, having money doesn't necessarily mean having the ability to travel. Americans generally have much less holiday (vacation) allowance than, say, Europeans: in the E.U. workers have a legal right to a minimum of four weeks per year. Moreover, the U.S. is so large that many of its inhabitants don't feel the need to travel outside it. Roughly 20% of Americans have passports, compared to roughly 60% of Brits; since the U.S. population is about 6 times that of the U.K., we can estimate (though not to high precision without statistics on how often those passports are used and for what purpose; a further simplification is that Americans may not need passports to travel to certain neighbouring nations) that twice as many Americans as Brits are tourists abroad. --pjt33
This policy is stupid and offensive and I won't be contributing after all. 20:05, 19 Feb 2005 (EST)
I wasn't sure you were right, but then I read the comments above and now I'm offended too. Travelling is the time when cultural sensitivity matters most. 16:28, 8 May 2005 (EDT)
We're all open to reasonable suggestions for a better spelling policy. --Evan 17:39, 8 May 2005 (EDT)
My English policy suggestion : Use the English for the country you're writing about. Nic 19:17, 8 May 2005 (EDT)
I'm new here, it seems like just what the travel world needs, and an all around good idea, so imagen my suprise when I find that the administraters of are so stuck on promoting US spelling. I thought it was "our" site. It's not a big thing, but the pollicy should be changed.
Actually, they aren't: Evan has already offered to make British/Commonwealth English the sitewide standard.
I still think this is overkill in the other direction, and that Wikipedia's "each country writes as it writes" is the best approach for us too. And as there is no consensus, this what's de facto happening anyway. Jpatokal 21:57, 8 Dec 2005 (EST)
Personally, I couldn't care which form of English the guide uses. The main point is to disseminate clearly understandable info that is useful for the traveler/traveller. However, as the problem of US English vs Commonwealth English is not going to disappear and there is always going to be someone complaining about it, it is a probably a good idea to establish a policy that satisfies both camps - and the only one I can see that does that is write in the form of English that is officially used in the country that the article is being written about. For continental US and former commerwealth countries that will be clear. For other places, such as Thailand or China for example, a quick check of a government web site should be sufficient to clarify the matter. Then, in order to maintain standard spelling for each page, a list of countries with their English preferences should compiled. I know it sounds a lot of effort for such a trival matter, but if a policy is created then it should be implemented fully. This will save later confusion, and hopefully finally put the matter to rest once and for all. Anon. 9 Dec 05
The problem we're having has sometimes been portrayed as US English versus Commonwealth English, which is sad, since the actual conflict lies on a different axis entirely. The real controversy is between having a consistent spelling throughout all of our guides for all destinations (be it American, Commonwealth, or International English), or dividing our community and our travel guide by having different rules for different articles. If you can come up with a good compromise between those two, it would be quite welcome. --Evan 22:55, 8 Dec 2005 (EST)
Preferences. Maintain a dictionary of simple mappings between orthographic variations, store the articles in the database in an arbitrary consistent form by making the post submission processing standardise them, and translate them when they're served if the requester's preferences so indicate. In the interests of stability, the dictionary should be editable only by administrators, although anyone should be able to view it and propose amendments. --pjt33

"Balkanization"? "Dividing our community"? Aren't you going a little overboard here? I prefer to think of it other way around — Wikitravel is much more inclusive when we let countries and contributors from those countries adopt their own spelling conventions, instead of forcing everyone to use the rules of the evil oppressive {Americans,British,Australian,New Zealanders} (choose one). Jpatokal 23:24, 8 Dec 2005 (EST)

I for one welcome our New Zealander overlords. --Evan 23:57, 8 Dec 2005 (EST)
I don't think it matters so much where the axis of conflict lies. The real issue is that someone is always going to be unhappy if one form of English is chosen over another as a standard for writing all the articles - whether that standard be based on the Commonwealth, US or even on a Chinese form of English is irrelevant. As Evan correctly pointed out, we need a compromise, and personaly the only satisfactory one I can perceive is to have every article written in the style of English that is officially used in the country about which a specific article is written. Then in order to avoid disputes and maintain consistency, a list of countries be drawn up stating which form of English they adhere to. Hopefully this will appease everyone and peacefully solve the dispute once and for all. Anon, 9 Dec 05
I think we're better off adapting International English, mainly because I think Americans just don't care that much about spelling, and so won't see it as any kind of affront. This way we can still use a single dictionary. -- Mark 05:53, 9 Dec 2005 (EST)
My official stance on this was that as long as you don't expect me to change Commonwealth English to American English, I don't care what convention we adopt. But I've realised that it is not true. I can't bring myself to change "right" spellings to "wrong" ones, so I used to simply ignore both variations and focus on the important things. But when an article comes close to being professional-looking, it becomes difficult to maintain the same level of apathy. I think that much of the objections to the spelling policy from the Commonwealth folks flow from the same root as mine. If it is really true that Americans don't care that much about spelling, I fully support making a switch to International English. --Ravikiran 07:38, 9 Dec 2005 (EST)
Now I'm lost. What is International English - is it English stripped of its colloquialisms? For example, how is colour/color spelt in international English? It sounds a great idea, but if most people are unfamiliar with its useage, will contributors need to continually consult with a dictionary and grammar book when writing articles or is there a standard to which we can all easily conform? If so, then I fully support adopting International English as Wikitravel's lingua franca. However, if it means that everyone is equally in the dark, then I believe using the form of English used in the country that the article is being written about is the best, albeit awkward, method to solve the problem. Anon. 9 Dec 05
It's basically OED with a the exception that a few terms related to international law use the American spelling. It makes things a lot easier, because there's a language code for it: en_GB_oed, and some very good dictionaries available for most platforms and some of the best translating dictionaries ever, like the Oxford-Hachette for French. -- Mark 08:41, 9 Dec 2005 (EST)

Then basically it is just British English, right? Using OED as the standard is fine with me as is using US English, though I wonder whether choosing one style of English over another is the best solution. If Americans really don't care about this issue, then using OED is definitely the answer, but if a few are unhappy about adopting what is in reality British English (even if it is called International English), then the problem starts again, then what do we do? Adopt Irish or Indian English? I cannot speak for 250 million Americans, but I think that before adopting OED, the matter needs some careful consideration. The pros over using the form of English used by the country that an article is about is that it is less confusing and easy to set a standard. The cons are that if some Americans are unhappy about having the 'u' taken out of colour/color or are told to write 'in' instead of 'on' the street, then the problem remains. Don't know the answer..just throwing out ideas. Anon 9 Dec 05

Adopt Irish or Indian English? But both of them do use "british" spelling. Why is it necessary to be so consistant. It won't make the site any less useable. Just follow Wikipedia's example. I know this is Wikitravel, but wikipedia has a good policy. 16:02, 9 Dec 2005 (EST)
Using Irish or Indian English was not meant to be taken as a recommendation. I was merely pointing out that adopting one style of English over another culd become an endless search for one form that is acceptable to others. Incidetally, Indian English has many differences with British English, though generally the spelling is the same. Using the Wikipedia model means to write in the style of English used in the country that the article is being written about - that's fine with me. We will just neet to formulate a list of countries stating which style they use. While we may not need consistancy for all Wikitravel, I think that you'll agree that the English used in a specific article should be standardized. Anon. 10 December 05

I keep reading here that the traveller comes first. Well, I'm a traveller. I have only just (as in a few minutes ago) set up a wikitravel ID, but I've used these pages often as a reader, and I have recommended them to others, both person to person, and in print, via a couple of columns I write. And yes, I am also a professional travel writer. I'm saying all this not to try and win brownie points with you folks, but to make a point. Readers, potential travellers, would tend to come here to look up a particular place (as I just did) because we intend to go there. If we were to follow links to other pages, they would tend to be about other places close by to the one we're interested in. We're not going to read vast numbers of pages in the same browsing session to compare spelling conventions across articles. These conventions are only of interest to writers and editors. Readers outnumber writers and editors. Yes, even in the age of desktop publishing, blogs and forums, that's still true. So the suggestions that Wikitravel's conventions should reflect the conventions of the region being written about make most sense to me. 21:01, 12 October 2006 (EDT)

Basically, the best idea is to use the original Commonwealth English, no offence intended but American spellings area essentially a corruption - and considering this is an international project in English, and British English is used in practically all English speaking nations, it would be the logical choice. -- 09:38, 31 January 2007 (EST)
It is an urban legend that American spellings are a corruption of the pristine English spellings, the result of under-education in the breakaway colonies, or whatever other odd ideas folks have. Spelling was not standardized until after the US had broken away, and the spelling is merely different, not wrong. The US just standardized on different common spellings than the Commonwealth did. -- Colin 12:50, 2 February 2007 (EST)


Sorry Evan, traveller is not a misspelling. It might not be the preferred spelling on this site, but it is absolutely not a mistake. Traveller is Commonwealth English while traveler is American English. DhDh 13:06, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)

Hey, you changed your sig thingy! Anyways, I was really just experimenting with the misspelling tool in MediaWiki, which is surprisingly cool. As far as "traveller" is concerned: most dictionaries I have access to don't list it, or put it in as a variant of "traveler". I use "traveller" all the time (as you can tell from, say, Wikitravellers), but I thought it was probably good to use the more standard form. Saying it's Commonwealth English doesn't convince me of much -- we still have the spelling rules, which favor American over Commonwealth for words that vary. -- Evan 13:55, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)

It's usually listed as "often traveller Chiefly British." I think you have a hard time arguing against it, even if we're sticking to American spelling. Majnoona

Sorry, I missed your logic on that. If we're sticking with American spelling, it's hard to argue against stuff that's "chiefly British"? Why does that follow?
Anyways, I prefer "traveller", so I'm just going to remove it from this list until someone else squawks. -- Evan 14:09, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)
I mentioned that there's a spell checker in MediaWiki that uses this page, right? I still need to be convinced that Commonwealth spellings shouldn't be listed here, so they can be automatically found and (manually) corrected. Is it the name of the page ("misspellings")? Would it be better if I hack the MediaWiki code so it looks for a "List of common non-standard spellings" or something? -- Evan 14:16, 10 Nov 2003 (PST)
"mispeelings" is a mispeeling that someone came up with when the feature was written into Wikipedia. -phma 16:30, 6 Dec 2003 (PST)

Man... I do the its --> it's thing all the time. Look for that in anything I've written. -- Uchuha 08:04, 2003 Nov 13 (PST)

  • As long as its understandable then thats fine, I'm British and used to reading American books etc - I fail too see why Americans should be fazed by some slightly different spellings. It's not a completely different word, substituting a 'z' for an 's' or adding a double 'l' will not change the meaning of the word

Prof Jack 19:32, 13 December 2007 (EST)


So, Webster's shows both "buses" and "busses" as acceptable plurals.

It's probably a good idea to use just one rather than both, but, y'know, just sayin'. B-) --Evan 09:10, 19 Dec 2003 (PST)

Oops! sorry. I didn't know that. Anyway, do we prefer -s- or -ss-. (You already know what I prefer :-) Oh BTW, another one: Oxford says alright is all right too, but I think we can apply the same rule here. DhDh 09:21, 19 Dec 2003 (PST)
Crap. I just took that out, and I was going to make a note of it on the Talk: page, and now... Dang! I have to put it back in again! --Evan 01:05, 8 Apr 2004 (EDT)
My Collins English Dictionary notes alright is the same as all right it also says that some consider the usage to be plain wrong and also says not universally accepted in all contexts. Franky I see nothing wrong with the word, and see all right as having a slightly different meaning!, but that is New Zealand English, so I added the (acceptable in some contexts) note. This error is probably symptomatic of the article needing rewording rather than a simple mispelling. -- Huttite 05:51, 8 Apr 2004 (EDT)

American spelling[edit]

moved to here from Wikitravel_talk:List_of_common_misspellings

I know it's the official Wikitravel policy but the reality is that Americans use American spelling and "Commonwealth" authors use English spelling. The list of "misspellings" is just getting longer and longer and is being ignored. I did try and fix it up but gave up after complaints. Maybe time for a policy change? --Nzpcmad 20:43, 11 Oct 2004 (EDT)

And what may be the benefit of having a common American spelling instead of allowing both as long as they are correct ? I don't have any problem with seeing both "traveler" and "traveller" in an Internet travel guide. Wojsyl 20:43, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
Have a look at Wikitravel:Spelling. Personally I will spell using "Commonwealth" spelling in "Commonwealth" articles but if it gets changed to "American" spelling, I will tolerate the edit. Remember that Americans are a significant group of world travellers, so having articles that they can read is probably a good thing. The policy has been chosen that way, and I see no strong reason to change it. However, if one looks at the mis-spelling list, there are only a few words that are seriously violating the American spelling rule, like centre and center. Given that these words may be proper names of places, there may be a good case for removing (or commenting out) just the problematic words. Or simply skip over them. -- Huttite 21:22, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
I don't have to be right here, but as a traveller I would rather prefer to see the original spelling of an author than having it uniformed into either "American" or "British". Wikitravel seems to be written by many individuals and there's no point in pretending that it's not. One cannot and in my opinion should not impose common style, as the style tells us something about the origin and POV of the particular author. The same seems true for the spelling. An American, European or Austalian will have slightly different view and will stress different aspects even if they all believe they have NPOV. By having this "uniformisation" policy we are loosing this information that may give extra hints to the reader. You don't really believe that an American will have any problems understanding British spelling or vice-versa, do you ? Maybe it's time to rethink this particular policy...
Wojsyl 21:48, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)

One reason for having a consistent spelling policy, be it American or British, is that it reduces unnecessary edits. You won't have someone sweep in and change everything to American, then someone sweep in and change everything to British, then someone ..... Seems kind of pointless. That said, I personally don't change anything if it is correct in either American or British English. You say travelling and I say traveling, .....--Wandering 15:56, 20 December 2007 (EST)

Medieval spelling[edit]

Ive lanng bin a faulloer ov the notion of medieval speling. If you understand what I wrote, I spelt it wright !!! period, or more acurately, three excamation points. Meanwhile I understand that some people like specific spelling rules. Fine. Go for it. My only request is that if somebody has just altered an article to match somebody's rules, maybe wait a while before re-doing it to somebody elses rules. That and be respectful please.

-- 19:26, 8 May 2005 (EDT)

Reply to Evan - what I would propose as policy.[edit]

Okay, so I started a question and so I guess I have to reply to Evan.

By the way, thanks for doing this. I don't agree with the per-article spelling guidelines idea, but I appreciate that you took the time to write this out. --Evan 16:04, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Suggestion one:

  • use wikipedia's policy of consistency within an article; it's inconsistent, but it is culturally tolerant and matches the real world and reminds people that there are many different cultures which is good for a travel guide.

Suggestion two:

  • start en_UK, en_US, en_IN and en_AU wikitravels - they can copy from eachother, so it won't really be four times the work and it will help us in other countries to teach our children consistent spelling if we want to use internet resources. If one language becomes dominant, at least this won't be through discrimination.
    • This is completely unworkable unless some technical genius comes up with a method to automagically convert pages from one version to another (as done in the Chinese Wikipedia for simplified vs traditional Chinese), which would seem to be total overkill for what is (frankly) quite a trivial issue. Jpatokal 09:13, 14 May 2005 (EDT)

Suggestion three:

Wikitravel started in American English, and so that's the dominant spelling style. As long as the majority of contributers are users of American English, you can expect your entry to be accidentally converted to American English and you are expected not to complain (in future when Indian English or some other variant becomes the dominant language of the internet, we expect this might gradually change). However, we are writing a travel guide for everybody, not just for Americans. This means that we have certain specific exceptions (see below).

Writers of other variants of English should feel free to write in their own dialect, as long as it is clearly and easily understandable for readers from the main English variants (IND/USA/UK/AUS/CAN etc.). Where an article has become inconsistent, it's probably best to convert it to American English since this is currently the most stable variant and most likely to lead to consistency.

Where an article has to include many phrases from a specific local variant (e.g. Sydney will have "Sydney harbour" and so writing something like the harbor in Sydney is called "Sydney Harbour" would be pretty insensitive to the Australians we are writing a guide about). Then it is probably best to write the article in that local variant.

So, I find this idea kind of strange. Let's Go writes about New Zealand with American spelling. Lonely Planet writes about San Francisco with Australian spelling. The Guide Routard writes about both in (dare I whisper it) French. As far as I know, the locals pay little or no attention to this state of affairs, so the evidence that it's offensive to them is pretty sparse.
Even if there are people who are so chauvinistic and xenophobic that they bristle with rage at seeing their country or city described in any language or dialect except their own, are those people really going to be working on an Open Source travel guide in the first place? I mean, travel guides encourage stinky foreigners to come to your city, eat your food, sleep with your daughters, and pollute the air with their yap-yap-yapping in various jibber-jabber languages and accents. They might even talk about your city in that other language, accent, or dialect!
Can't we expect a teensy bit more open-mindedness and international perspective from Wikitravellers? --Evan 16:04, 5 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I find this all somewhat bemusing. English is an adaptive ever-changing language - it is not consistent and anyone who has ever sought to impose rules upon it has failed.
If this site intends to extend its coverage across the globe it needs to take account of the fact that words are spelt and pronounced differently in different places. If readers go abroad and find that the maps spell the words differently to this site they could get lost. If they then attempt to ask directions in their own English dialect they will get blank stares.
It might be pleasing to the eye of a certain proportion of readers, but if they go to Europe, Australasia, the Indian sub-continent, or Africa it won't be of much practical use to them.
The topic has been argued to death on Wikipedia and although the solution may not be consistent it works fairly well on geographical or national topics. Therefore, suggestion one seems to me to be the most sensible if this site is intended to be an accurate, practical, and informative travel guide. Wiki-Ed 08:48, 16 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Evan's argument seems to be that Lonely Planet uses Australian (I think it's pretty much the same as UK) english, whereas Lets Go uses USA english. The reason for this is that they are sold in different markets. In the UK, it is very difficult to get hold of a "Lets Go" (and/because they wouldn't sell, because of the annoying spelling!), the market is dominated by Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. In the USA I expect that it is the opposite. The difference with Wikitravel is that it's "market" is the while world - it has to appeal to both markets. They can happily pay their contributers to use the "market" spelling they want and they will do this precisely because they are paid. Wikitravel uses volunteer labour and this option is not open to us.
Oneof the reasons I first got involved in the debate was becuase the current "harsh" spelling "policy" seemed to be putting off quite a few Kiwis/Aussies/Brits from contributing. Why do I see this as a problem? Well, the above groups seems to be much more frequent travellers than Americans in my experience. Especially around Europe and London, there are loads of the above spending at least a year travelling. Because of university debts (or whatever) I think that there are somewhat fewer young americans who do the same. If we were to "flip" the policy, or use a more flexible one, I believe that some of these sorts of people would be more likely to contribute, whilst not putting off too many of the "liberal" Americans who already do. -- DanielC 15:47, 16 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Just FYI, Lonely Planet seems to be far and away the leader in the American market with Rough Guides second and Let's Go! third. I could be wrong, this is just from what I see at bookstores.
However, I'd like to use this to point out that it's a good argument for switching to OED: As an american I didn't notice until well into the discussion that Lonely Planet uses commonwealth spelling. I guess I just don't care. Like Evan I think maybe most of my travelling countryfolk care little or nothing about spelling, so we might as well appease the people who do care about it. -- Mark 15:58, 16 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I'd be happy to see International English or Commonwealth English be the global spelling rule, but I'm not willing to see the consistency of this guide undermined by regionalism.
I also dispute any assertion that Wikitravellers will, by dint of being volunteers, make lower-quality guides. I am exceptionally proud of the excellent standard of work on this site, and I'm inordinately proud to be associated with the incredible group of people who have made it. Many of our guides are top quality work; I think there are some destinations for which the Wikitravel guide is the best available. --Evan 08:59, 17 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Who said that? I don't recall seeing such an assertion. -- Mark 10:49, 17 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Avoiding common misunderstandings in American English[edit]

  • don't write rubber - write "condom"
  • don't write pants - write "trousers"

Several recipe posting websites automatically (or with the help of a moderator) insert clarifications for unusual foods or ingredients with many different names, or substitutions for ingredients not available in the US. Maybe wikipedia can adopt this too, not only so someone doesn't show up at a whore house with a pocketful of erasers on the advice of an American contributor, but so that if someone can't figure out what "colour" could possibly mean, they can click the word and see that it "means" color. There are probably many other examples, and since nobody could possibly be aware of all the alternative spellings or meanings of a word, the list of confusable words could be maintained publicly. I'm not sure when this would ever be really necessary, but before the show "Coupling," I didn't give the word "pants" a second thought in reading. I wouldn't have known the author could mean something besides the American definition unless I was given appropriate context. If I'd seen the word was a hyperlink, however, I would have clicked it and a little text box would have said "Pants: n American - Trousers, slacks, etc. British - underwear, thongs, etc." And I would have been relieved to know that I had cleared up a potential misunderstanding.

Concur. I would add, generally, avoid colloquialisms, as they are usually regional in nature. Ozymandias (talk) 16:38, 18 September 2015 (EDT)

Avoiding common misunderstandings in other variants of English[edit]

  • don't write pants - write "underwear" or specify more carefully
  • don't write rubber - write "eraser" 08:34, 14 May 2005 (EDT)
As Jpatokal has pointed out, Suggestion 2 is unworkable. And your "Suggestion 1" and "Suggestion 3" fail to address the specific reasons given in the policy page which explain exactly why we don't want to do that. "We need to pick one spelling style for consistency". So consistency is the reason given for the existing policy; therefore you need to address why consistency is unimportant. -- Colin 16:45, 3 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Thanks. I guess at some point I need to extract the long rebuttal to the idea of per-article spelling rules listed far above (from the first time this came up) into an article or some other kind of information. --Evan 17:34, 3 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Can I ask why consistency overrides common usage in spelling, but not for article naming? See the X National Park and Y Island debates, where Evan's...I'm sorry, I mean The Wikitravel Consensus opinion has been that consistency should give way to most common usage. Jpatokal 23:07, 3 Jun 2005 (EDT)
{removed comment} --Evan 12:26, 4 Jun 2005 (EDT)
Evan, I think that was a bit uncalled for. I can't see that Jpatokal was being confrontational or trying to "defeat" anyone. Although I had thought for a while that the spelling policy should be changed to be more "inclusive", I had decided not to say anything to avoid diverting my attention from more positive things I was trying to do on Wikitravel. However, I do agree with Jpakotal that on quite a few "arguments" the status quo / consensus argument is often held mainly (only?) by you (Evan) and you are unwilling to change things. I understand that you have probably thought about these sort of things more than most people and gone through arguing the case many times, but there is another side, and in this case I think enough people have put the opposing opinion frequently and strongly enough for there to be some sort of change in "policy". -- DanielC 12:46, 4 Jun 2005 (EDT)
I didn't mean to give offense; I really wanted to help him get some of his ideas implemented or at least understood. I've removed my comment and I'll leave the point unanswered. I'm sorry if that leaves your response hanging. --Evan 13:18, 4 Jun 2005 (EDT)

Ton/tonne in article[edit]

While everyone else argues about the usual spelling wars above (I'm afraid I'm going to use the Commonwealth spellings out of habit, but if someone wants to change them that's OK) I'd like to point out an inaccuracy on the main article before I correct it:

Ten tons of aluminum a day are extracted from the Ten-Tonne Harbour Aluminium Centre.

This is used to illustrate an example of a spelling inconsistency between a proper name and the American spelling. While I agree with the aluminum/Aluminium thing (although technically this is a dialect difference, not spelling) the words "ton" and "tonne" do have different meanings. "Ton" is an imperial measurement, equal to 2240 pounds, while "tonne" is a metric measurement, equal to 1000 kilograms.

Wikipedia suggests that the two terms are interchangable, which they may be in American English, but certainly over here there's a clear difference between the two. And seeing as this article is here to convince Commonwealth speakers to write in the American usage, the example does confuse.

Can anyone suggest an alternative to this example?

-- Owl 14:31, 23 Jul 2005 (EDT)

I tried one, but I'd be happy to just throw out the example, too. I think the point is made with the other example. I'd like to see others, though. --Evan 13:21, 24 Jul 2005 (EDT)
Heh, your new example is better, but (amusingly) that's also a dialect thing. In Commonwealth English, the -se/-ce constructs are clearly defined (you need to license [verb] your vehicle; you need a vehicle licence [noun]) so consequently we do have a word "defense" which is a verb, meaning "to fortify" -- not that anyone ever uses it, so the example is clear enough. -- Owl 17:00, 24 Jul 2005 (EDT)
In Wiki style, we aim for consistency within an article. It would be great if each article was deliberately marked on creation so editors would know where to go with it. Ozymandias (talk) 16:41, 18 September 2015 (EDT)
I'm just noticing that tonne is used to signify a metric ton, which isn't exactly 2000 pounds.


Copied from User talk:Repayne

Thanks for the spelling fixes, but as far as I can tell, the proper spelling is "archaeological", not "archeological" (See Wikipedia and Wiktionary). In addition, the first hit on Google for "archaeology" is "Archaeology Magazine", while the top results for "archeology" are sites in which the spelling is "archaeology". -- Wrh2 00:56, 15 Sep 2005 (EDT)

Thanks for pointing that out. I was going by the mispeelings (sic!) page, which says: "archaeological -> archeological (american spelling)". I should have checked. Wiktionary and M-W Online both list both variants. -- Rob (Payne) 00:59, 15 Sep 2005 (EDT)
I've updated the Wikitravel:List of common misspellings to no longer include "archeology" for the above reasons, and also because that's not a spelling I'm familiar with and I've spent the majority of my life in America. If someone out there is an English major and can prove that Americans get 10-20 hard labor for adding an extra vowel then we can add it back. Also, I reverted the spelling change of "Antarctica" on the Ushuaia page since the hostel name is in Spanish. Anyhow, thanks for the changes, and thanks for making me aware of the spelling function -- after almost a year here I just thought that User:Nzpcmad was a really good speller. -- Wrh2 01:10, 15 Sep 2005 (EDT)

Disputed box[edit]

If you have a good idea for changing the spelling guidelines, make the change and see if it sticks. --Evan 23:10, 8 Dec 2005 (EST)

The policy is in conflict with reality, and while lots of "good ideas" have been presented, nobody has yet come up with a consensus that satisfies you (and yes, I'm afraid you and Maj really are the ones digging your feet in on this). Wikipedia uses conflict tags for situations like this, why don't we? Jpatokal 23:18, 8 Dec 2005 (EST)
I've reverted the change you made; you're right, it is disputed. I know you have the best interest of this project at heart; I really don't see how overwriting the manual of style with disclaimers helps that, but I have faith that you're doing what you think is best.
I really strongly believe that spelling is a teensy, tiny thing, and I'm surprised and bemused that anyone would refuse to participate in this project based on spelling rules. I've tried to come up with a policy that would satisfy people who only want to write in Commonwealth English spelling, but it didn't fly. So we're stuck with the guideline we have until we find something else. I guess there's nothing wrong with saying that we're not happy about the situation. --Evan 23:44, 8 Dec 2005 (EST)
I also don't really care about the spelling, which is precisely why I find it odd that you're unwilling to adopt "each country sets its standard" (non-)policy. So adding that big ugly box is my way of both a) preventing people who stumble in from thinking that this is cast in stone by the monolithic Admistrators of Doom, and b) trying to force some sort of conclusion so we can make the box go away. Jpatokal 00:33, 9 Dec 2005 (EST)
OK, Plan B there evidently didn't work. However, in the past almost-half-year the status quo has persisted, meaning that articles about each country are written in that country's own brand of English (in practice, US = American English, rest of the world = Commonwealth English). Could we just all agree on this or some variant thereof? Jpatokal 12:31, 26 April 2006 (EDT)
Maybe the failure to obtain people's opinions on this issue shows that the real status quo is: people don't really care about "official" spelling, they just want to be free (this it's a free guide, right?) to use their chosen spelling regardless of where they're writing about. And if the status quo in a wiki is quite different from the established policy, the latter is not really disputed, it's just not considered relevant or being followed anyway. If the policy is to be changed, why can't we just have something like "refrain from editing what other people have written unless it is wrong spelling"? How much time do we have to waste editing that kind of thing? How significant is consistent spelling and "national orthographic pride" compared to consistent content and quality information? The travel(l)er comes first, not the spellchecker. Finally, please remember that lots of Wikitravellers are not native speakers of English - we have enough trouble trying to write in a foreign language as well as we can, so do not assume that all of us are aware of more subtle aspects of English language such as "national" spellings. Sorry if I'm making too many questions here - I'm just following this issue closely because I'm sure this is also going to pop up on pt: sooner or later. The differences between Brazilian and "European" Portuguese are much greater so it would be nice if our bigger English-speaking sister had it settled first. Ricardo (Rmx) 14:22, 26 April 2006 (EDT)
The problem is that some people do care, see earlier on this very Talk page where two people left in a huff because of the current policy. I also don't like having policies on paper that are ignored in practice, so that's exactly why I'd like to amend the policy to reflect reality more closely. Jpatokal 22:19, 26 April 2006 (EDT)

Of course it'd be much better if those people who care discussed and amended the policy themselves as they feel appropriate. I understand, however, that for many newcomers, being bold enough to change an established policy can be challenging and in this case the disputed box makes some sense as it may encourage people to join the discussion. Maybe Wikitravel:Requests for comment could be useful here too.

As for amending the policy, maybe I'm being a dissonant voice here, but I honestly think that consistent spelling is being overrated. I'd go for freedom of choice and respect for other people's contributions and use a general rule such as "US English for US articles, CW English elsewhere" just in case of conflict resolution. Ricardo (Rmx) 11:15, 27 April 2006 (EDT)

I'd make it even more general:

  • writers: use either American or Commonwealth English, whatever you are comfortable with.
  • editors: do not "fix" dialect differences; there are far better uses of your time than changing "center" to "centre" or "traveller" to "traveler, or vice versa.

I think the whole notion that we need a "standard" here is misguided. Pashley 03:26, 15 March 2007 (EDT)

Non-English spelling[edit]

I said to an anonymous user crêpe is not English spelling. It is spelt crepe in my dictionary, for both American and Commonwealth English. While we might disagree on which or what order letters appear in words, can we at least agree on the letters to use?

There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, ê is not one of them. It cannot be typed on a standard US 101 keyboard. I think the spelling change of crepe -> crêpe is not correct for this reason.

While diacritics may be useful for pronouncing words, I cannot type them using my standard keyboard, ergo, their use cannot be written English, otherwise there would be keys for them. The typewriter has had this layout for about 100 years and it has never been a demand for these extra keys before, so diacritic spellings are clearly not an English language construct but a foreign language one.

I do not have a problem with foreign words being spelled this way, but once they appear in a dictionary and adopted into English the diacritic is dropped. I will make a single exception for Café, because my dictionary has it printed that way, even if I cannot type it. -- Huttite 17:36, 1 Jan 2006 (EST)

I followed the café precedent for crêpe because my English dictionary lists it as a non-English word and (therefore) spells it with the ê. Is there one particular English dictionary resource (presumably online) that is used as the wikitravel "standard"?
Not yet, no. --Evan 18:55, 1 Jan 2006 (EST)
The underlying premise here is untrue; a quick flip through an English dictionary shows that there are a number of borrowed words that use a number of diacritic and accented characters. Borrowed words are English words, and we don't need to show ourselves smarter than Messrs Oxford and Webster.
If some particular word is not correct (I agree about "crepe"; I can't find an English dict that gives the circumflex'd version), but let's not throw out all accented words based on that sole example. --Evan 18:54, 1 Jan 2006 (EST)
This is going to show up in spades as the Southwest (United States of America) fleshes out, because there are all manner of place names, attractions, etc., that incorporate the Spanish "ñ" here, in official names, other web sites, you name it. I have been including the tilde as a matter of course and would be most unwilling not to; not only is it "correct," it also helps the traveler understand how a thing is supposed to be pronounced, and there is value in that. Calling Española (New Mexico) "es-pah-NO-lah", rather than "es-pah-NYO-lah," marks one as an outsider and can lead to poor customer service -- or, if you wander into the wrong bar at the wrong time, worse.
"Crepe" with an ê is really gilding the lily, though. Strikes me that whether a particular diacritical is "correct" is no more important than whether it is "helpful." Mass edits to turn "crepe" into "crêpe," etc., don't strike me as helping the traveler in any meaningful way, nor do a number of the other edits that have been made lately in the name of Commonwealth-English vs. American-English spelling wars and reflect the cultural bias of the author more than anything about content. Can't we spend our time on helpful stuff instead? -- Bill-on-the-Hill 19:25, 1 Jan 2006 (EST)
The "crepe" issue arose because I came across both spellings in one article, so I looked it up (Concise Oxford 10th Edition) and it said crêpe. Similar story on countless other occasions.
I think what I am trying to say here is that spelling a word without diacritics is a perfectly acceptable spelling option, and should always be accepted as a valid spelling. Similarly, spelling a word with a diacritic in a particular context is generally valid, especially if someone can give an authorative resource for that usage. Changing from non-diacritic to diacritic spelling is not a valid tranformation, although the reverse might be acceptable sometimes.
I agree it is quite acceptable to use diacritics if a non-English word is being used in English as a non-English word. However, if the same word has been adopted into English without the diacritics and is being used in English as an English word then the diacritics should be omitted. Switching between the two alternative is not simply correcting a spelling but also changing a meaning. Because once a non-English word gets adopted into English and loses its non-English character it may also acquire additional meanings that the original non-English word did not have, otherwise English would not have adopted it.
One of these is probably Café, or is it Cafè?, which I spell as Cafe, and say like Caf-fay. I equate this word with the English equivalent of tearooms though smaller, perhaps with tables and chairs outdoors or on the footpath. I can live with the variants.
Concerning the Mexican/Spanish/French/German/etc. place names. Use them by all means, especially if they are used that way in English. But be prepared for their spellings without diacritics for the Outsiders who are ignorant - like me. If you cannot live with that, just be sure you put the macrons in the right places on all the Māori place names in New Zealand, so they can be said correctly. The fact that most of these names have non-macronised versions may be a clue about the language being used. -- Huttite 19:40, 1 Jan 2006 (EST)

Remember The Traveller Comes First[edit]

I would urge a reform to the language policy, perhaps the following suggested policy, is the policy to end the language wars!

As a speaker of Brtish or Commonwealth English, living in Britain I am relatively relaxed about American versions of spellings appearing in articles about British destinations, and vice versa. Indeed before we on this site of the Atlantic get too precious about it, if memory serves correctly, I believe it was the Americans who went out to standardise spellings before us!

But let's just think about what this article is for, it's a travel guide that is intrinsictly international, and needs to think about people who are outside their home language zone, the Scotsman visiting Los Angeles, or the Texan in London, but also the Russian visiting Paris.

I want speakers of American English to visit destinations and spend money in Britain, and it would hardly be a great shock that Americans want British and Australian tourists, to visit and spend money in their communities. This is a collaberative effort, and whilst local people writing about their local area is very useful, tourists writing about places they have visited have a useful insight too. People will naturally write in style natural to them and spell accordingly.

I would urge however abandonment of attempts to standardise spellings, since in many cases it doesn't matter. If the word is spelt "color" or "colour", does it matter? Answer is no obviously, the meaning is clear. There does seem to be a consensus on that point at least. I would say, lets not worry about consistency of style too much, this is a travel guide, not a high quality piece of literature, an academic or a legal document, where consistency everywhere in the article would be important. We must be consistent on style only where it matters for a travel guide, so:-

1. We must however keep the rule on using the local version for proper nouns, and I would urge all users of the site to keep an eye out for this one, and correct accordingly. Please, no "Epcott Centres" in Disneyworld or "Sydney Harbor Bridges" either!

2. Where there are significant differences between the US and Commonwealth English language usages for the same concept, I would urge actually a dual usage, the first time the phrase or word is used in the article to ensure that the meaning is clear to speakers of one version or the other, with the article giving primacy to the local version, and putting in brackets, (paranthesis) the alternate version.

Why? Because if you asked someone in Britain about the location of a "parking lot", or an American shopkeeper for a "lollipop" you run the risk of geting a blank look, or at least drawing undue attention to yourself. Also part of the purpose of travelling is to understand and learn about the local culture, and local language, especially where we are divided by a common language!

It would also be helpful for people whose first language is not English at all to understand what words to look out for on signage or when people talk when visiting their particular part of the Anglosphere.

By way of tribute to our American founders, I would suggest that articles about places outside the Anglosphere should lead with the American version, with the Commonwealth version in brackets, no matter which version of English is preferred there or how near they are to a particular English Speaking country.

So some examples thay I've come up with just to demonstrate the point. (Apologies if I have made a mess of any North American usages, but I hope the principle I am trying to convey is clear!)

"London's main cinemas, (movie theaters) can be found in Leicester Square." (Difference between cinema and "movie theater" is significant, so since "Cinema" would generally be used in the UK, "cinema" therefore gets primacy, but it is important to put the US version in, particularly for people who are not native or very fluent English speakers and have learnt US English as an additional language, just to make sure the meaning is clear).

"Xville, Xstate, USA has a world famous candy (sweet) factory. ("Candy" has primacy, article about an North American place, "sweet" put in to ensure the meaning is clear)

but it would of course be

"Xton, Xshire, England has a world famous sweet (candy) factory ("Sweet" has primacy, article is about a British place).

"A large parking lot, (car park) can be found near Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris". ("Parking Lot"/ "Car Park", difference is significant so both versions appear but "Parking lot" get's primacy, (US version gets primacy in an article about a place outside the Anglosphere, Commonwealth version "car park" in brackets)).

"Many of London's theaters can be found in the West End." or "Many of London's theatres can be found in the West End." (The difference between "theatre" and "theater" is insignificant, so either would suffice, the meaning is self-evidently clear, it would be absurd to have to always write "theater, (theatre)" or vice versa.)

Similarly "Many of New York's theaters can be found on Broadway." or "Many of New York's theatres can be found on Broadway." (As above)

Oh and by the way let's try and make sure we have consisentcy within phrases, so "movie theater" never "movie theatre"!

Does this policy make more sense? Any suggestions for tweaking it? (Added 14 January 2007).

Yeah, there are some good suggestions here that are definitely worth considering, and certainly this approach would help defuse edit wars based on US vs UK spelling rules. However, while it is obvious that, say, Cinema should be the primary word followed by (Movie Theater) in an an article about a place in the UK, it is less clear which form should take precedence in an article for a place in a non-English speaking country such as, for example, Mongolia or Cameroon? Should it be the US style that is given priority in EEC or Commonwealth countries as suggested in the above Paris example? Also, what style should be adopted for information-based articles, such as Wikitravel:Manual of style? It is not say that these problems cannot be amicably solved, but they do need to be discussed before a general consensus on policy is reached. Like yourself, I have no personal preference. If Wikitravel wants to spell colo(u)r with or without the u or center with the er transposed, it is fine with me. Anyway, anon-contributor, thanks for your suggestion. Let's see where it leads. WindHorse 11:37, 14 January 2007 (EST)
I just can't get too worked up one way or the other on which version of English we give primacy on Articles about places outside the Anglosphere, since there isn't the issue of cultural authenticity, both forms of English are alien to the context!We should use the version of English relevant to the context, and since neither is, I would plump for the American form to be given primacy simply:-

1 There is a historic computing tradition of using Americanised forms, (e.g. It's "computer program" actually on both sides of sides of the Atlantic, although "programme" is used in other contexts). 2. We "are where we are" already with Americanisms being the current norm, no need to change just for the sake of change.

The logical conclusion from this would be to give Americanised versions primacy, (with Commonwealth versions in brackets where necessary), in those articles where it doesn't matter in the cultural context, so that would include the generalist advice type pages too.

I think a lot of the heat about this debate is about using only the "Alien" version of English about particular locations anyway. (added 00:39 18 January (GMT)).

I think adding parenthetical translations for cinema or sweet (or the other way around) is a little insulting to the reader's intelligence. Americans know what a lollipop is for heaven's sake, and I'm pretty sure most Brits have heard of a parking lot or will quickly figure out what a yank means by that. (And that funny U.S. accent will draw far more attention than failing to call it a car park.) This is the English-language Wikitravel; I think we can assume enough proficiency with the language to understand these synonyms.
The current policy is simple and straightforward; switching back and forth would create confusion. If we had a policy that said to use British spellings where applicable... that raises the question of where are they applicable? When English is used in, say, India or Eire, I assume the UK version is used, and I know that's the version taught as a foreign language throughout Europe. But does that mean we use it for those articles? What about the country formerly known as British Honduras, or Jamaica, or other former colonies that are not the U.S.? It's not obvious. Yes, a little research will answer the question, but that places an extra burden on the editor.
(And lest you think I'm arguing from the perspective of an insular American who doesn't want to be bothered to learn another dialect: When I went to university in Scotland, I switched to British spellings for obvious reasons, and continued using them in all online communication even after I got back to the States, mostly to amuse myself and to confuse others. So it actually takes a conscious effort for me to type "license" instead of "licence", or "traveller" instead of "traveler".) - Todd VerBeek 17:25, 28 April 2007 (EDT)

Hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes[edit]

Being a particularly uptight person, I've noticed that our usage of hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes is all over the place. The "proper" (at least in American English) way of formatting these punctuation marks is:

  • Hyphens - only used to "hyphenate," to join two words (e.g., Attribution-ShareAlike)
  • En dashes – only used to express a closed range or comparison in values where you would use the word "to" (e.g., 23–25 May 2001, the New York–Baltimore bus ride, the supreme court overturned the verdict 5–4, etc.)
  • Em dashes — only used to express sudden breaks in thought, serving a very similar purpose to parentheses (e.g., this restaurant—which is fabulous—serves Cajun cuisine)

None of these marks should be surrounded by spaces—although this practice is becoming common in journalism. I'm frankly not sure what you are supposed to do with lists like ours for cities:

  • Paris - the French capital or
  • Paris — the French capital

I commonly see editors using either a hyphen surrounded by spaces or an em dash surrounded by spaces in our lists and am not sure what we want to do to standardize this.

Could we use an MoS policy on this? --Peterfitzgerald Talk 14:05, 28 April 2007 (EDT)

We can set a policy, and I support that, but I wouldn't expect most people to follow it if we do. The majority are going to use hyphens for all of these purposes, because A) there's a key on their keyboard for it, and B) they may not even be aware that there is a difference (especially between En and Em). These are typesetting/journalism distinctions that are beyond the ken of those who learned to write with pens and typewriters. :) - Todd VerBeek 15:20, 28 April 2007 (EDT)
For what to do with lists of cities, and similar lists, see Wikitravel talk:Manual of style#One-liner listings ~ 15:57, 28 April 2007 (EDT)
I don't like getting too hung-up with old-fashioned rules. Languages always change and adapt. Bullet point lists wouldn't be covered by most grammar manuals and hyphens in bullet-point lists are a very useful way of making a list look good, which should be an important criteria after all. -- DanielC 09:31, 29 April 2007 (EDT)
I wholeheartedly agree that we shouldn't try too hard to stick to the Chicago MoS. I just think that we could stand to benefit from some sort of consensus-based standard. So I'd love to hear thoughts! --Peterfitzgerald Talk 09:57, 29 April 2007 (EDT)
As you've probably noticed, I'm a lover of the en dash... based solely on a visual preference. It's interesting to see the breakdown of usage above though. I'd say just like everything else in the MoS, eventually we should have a set standard. Todd brings a good argument for the hypen, since it's the easiest to use. I just think it looks stubby, especially when used in city lists and similar things. I will say however that with all 3 of them, I prefer when there is a space either side of them. – cacahuate talk 04:00, 1 September 2007 (EDT)

Accents and diacritics[edit]

I'd like to suggest a policy here. (Has there been any discussion elsewhere?) It depends to some extent on the language. A good general principal is to use the English spelling of a well-known place (Cologne, not Köln), but use the local spelling if the place is only likely to be found on local maps and in guidebooks. The most widely used European languages often have such diacritics and they are essential to spelling and pronunciation:

  • French. Accents and diacritic signs are essential to grammar, understanding and pronunciation. The letter ç is a different letter from c, é, ê, è and e are pronounced differently, oe, and œare different etc.
  • German. The diacritics are essential to pronunciation, and words and place names can sometimes be mistaken if they are not used. For example there are towns called Münster and others called Munster. But Muenster is an alternative German spelling for Münster, e. g. used in crosswords.
  • Spanish. The accents are essential to pronunciation. The letter ñ is a different letter from n, and is even alphabetized differently in the dictionary. The rules for spelling and pronunciation in Spanish are actually much simpler than in English.
This is touched on in Wikitravel:Article naming conventions. We use the "most common English name" - and therefore spelling - of places. For European destinations that's usually going to be the same as the local spelling, because no one ever bothered butchering anglicizing most of the less-than-famous ones. As for diacritical marks, anything that shows up in the "Characters" section below the edit box can and should be used. When used in article names, versions that omit the diacritics and expand umlauts and ligatures ("ü" into "ue", "ß" into "ss") should be used in redirects to the proper spelling, to aid those who can't easily type them into the search box. -Todd VerBeek 09:20, 29 April 2007 (EDT)

Harvard Comma[edit]

I don't think we have a policy on this, but I'd like to declare our support for the Harvard comma. Of course, I don't think it much matters, but I was thinking about this a couple of days ago when I was considering why some people don't use the Harvard comma. -- Sapphire(Talk) • 21:43, 31 July 2007 (EDT)

Does it fall within the same American vs Commonwealth argument (which American should have won, as it's clearly superior)? Seems that it's used more often in American spelling. In that case, I vote for it. Why must the Brits refuse to accept our more perfected version of their crappy language? – cacahuate talk 00:19, 1 August 2007 (EDT)
It the most used form in American, but those British speaking twats don't even use it. ;) Just joking, British peeps. Can someone explain to me why they teach British at foreign schools, especially if you consider there are far more Americans than there are Brits? We kicked the King's ass thrice so I fail to understand why British is still around. -- Sapphire(Talk) • 00:46, 1 August 2007 (EDT)
I don't think we need a policy at this level of detail. If we must have one, it should specify using the "Harvard" comma. One reference is [1]. Pashley 23:35, 2 September 2007 (EDT)
Support for "the Oxford comma" (also known as "the Harvard comma"). 01:24, 3 September 2007 (EDT)
I'd support this addition to our spelling policy, but only if we don't call it the "Oxford" or "Harvard" comma, since most people won't know what that means (and "serial comma" is anyway a much less obnoxious title). We should also probably make it clear that, unless an article is being primed for offline publishing, it is not really worth anyone's time to work across articles making "comma policy" edits. --Peter Talk 03:54, 3 September 2007 (EDT)
I agree that we don't need something of this degree of precision at all. Even if we did, no one would care and hardly anyone would know about this policy. As to whether it's American vs Commonwealth...I'm American and grew up without using it. I participated in the International Baccalaureate program-which used Commonwealth spellings-and it was during those years that I was taught to use this extra comma. But I have also noticed it in newspapers. I personally use it, but I am not certain if it is the grammatically correct thing to do or not nor do I know if it is American or Commonwealth. But like I said, this degree of policy is too specific and will be unknown, ignored, and not enforced. Let's leave it at that.

Finally changed this[edit]

So, the "policy" as currently stated has been a dead letter for a long time, with practically all articles written in the local variant of English. I've thus updated the policy to reflect reality. Jpatokal 23:21, 14 March 2008 (EDT)

That reality rests on a sound footing of logic—articles are written disproportionately by those who live there or close to there, and they probably are going to be most familiar with their own spelling standards. I never really thought the policy as it was made much sense. --Peter Talk 00:16, 15 March 2008 (EDT)
Good! -- Colin 03:09, 15 March 2008 (EDT)
I disagree with this policy. What's going to happen over time is that we'll get more and more inconsistencies. This is the sort of copy-editing fault which makes a text look amateurish and unreliable even if the reader doesn't notice what specifically is inconsistent. Suppose you could wave a magic wand and make all the articles standardized on US spelling except for place names. Can anyone seriously propose that any readers would say, "Good Lord, here's an article on Tunbridge Wells that uses American spelling, just like the article on Sheboygan does! What sort of shoddy work is that?" No: the expectation that users bring to Wikitravel aren't the expectations brought to an on line forum, they're the expectations brought to an on line travel guide, and these are universally edited for spelling consistency. The fact that this is an issue at all for Wikitravel has nothing to do with user expectations and everything to do with contributor preferences. That being the case, it should be obvious what the policy decision should have been. Sailsetter 12:07, 13 April 2008 (EDT)
Uh... maybe I'm just dense, but what should the policy decision have been? Enforce a single spelling standard across the entire site? That was tried, and it obviously didn't work.
Having multiple spelling styles in a single article would be amateurish and unreliable. However, I don't see what the problem if the entire UK uses British spelling, and the entire US uses American spelling. Jpatokal 12:54, 13 April 2008 (EDT)
It didn't work in the sense that some egocentric contributors kept complaining about it and insisting on not following the spelling standardization policy and screaming about anyone who standardized their spelllings. It would have eventually worked if the policy had been left in place and contributors were encouraged to follow it and to standardize spellings to American ones wherever they came across them if they had the time and inclination, and if such interventions were officially approved policy. I don't understand what's meant by "the entire UK using British spelling and the entire US using American spelling." Does this mean that an American contributor is supposed to remember to use UK spelling if they write, add to, or revise an article about a UK destination? Many American contributors aren't going to know how and aren't going to bother if they do. So as long as American contributors write or revise articles on British destinations, and vice versa, there are going to be inconsistencies, including inconsistencies within the same article, and probably sometimes within the same paragraph or even sentence. All the policy change does is remove the rationale for correcting such awkwardness. It could of course be argued that other people can standardize the spelling in UK articles to UK spelling and in American articles to American spelling. But what does this complication accomplish except throw a sop to orthographical chauvinists? And except for that sop, how is it better than having contributors correct everything to standardized American spellings? It certainly isn't based on putting priority on impressing users. And furthermore I think that inconsistencies in spelling conventions between US and British destination articles in the same guidebook are very much a problem. It's the sort of thing that makes the work as a whole look subtly poorly crafted even if it's not specifically noticed. Sailsetter 14:39, 13 April 2008 (EDT)
I don't recall anyone ever screaming about this policy. It seems to me that, for example, UK contributors simply wrote according to the rules that they know, thereby making the articles about the UK (which are disproportionately written by UK contributors) conform more to a British orthography than to an American one. I think this is basically an inevitability for internationally written wikis (Wikipedia has this same local-orthography rule), and to spend time standardising punctuation & spelling across thousands of guides doesn't strike me as worthwhile.
Anyway, not that I necessarily think this should be written into policy, but I think the "optimal spelling area" (i.e., how far should one orthography be standardised) should be defined as any collection of articles that would conceivably wind up in a single book (were such a book to be written). So, a guidebook to the UK, not a guidebook to Earth, should have a single orthography. --Peter Talk 15:17, 13 April 2008 (EDT)
As seems so usual, American cultural imperialism is more important than a good product. Most of the English speaking world, does NOT spell the American way. Some countries are swapping ESL teaching from American English to Commonwealth English as a result of American cultural and military imperialism. I spell as per Australian English, if anything I write is going to be changed to American English - I simply won't write - and there are few American travellers to the places I would write about as you simply aren't wanted there. Not when you want to carry your imperialist baggage along. It's no wonder that most Americans in off-the- beaten track places in Russia, pretend to be Canadians!
I hate to interrupt a good rant, but "American cultural imperialism" has not been in effect on Wikitravel for several years now -- spelling follows local conventions. Jpatokal 08:01, 10 February 2009 (EST)
Then perhaps you should change the MoS to reflect that, instead of this -

"If the destination has no history of using English and no clear preference for the variety to use, we prefer American English spelling. This isn't because American English is somehow better or to stomp on the rights, heritage, and cultures of other English-speaking countries. We just need to pick one default spelling style for consistency." Articles should continue in the style of the original unless a clear preference exists for another style of English. Otherwise the the language from en to us and be done with it. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs)

So you're suggesting that the first contributor to a destination gets to pick the language variant to use? <boggle> And we'd thus end up with a crazy patchwork of destinations in the same region using different styles of spelling depending on who wrote them? That makes no sense at all. Jpatokal 21:48, 10 February 2009 (EST)
If it's no problem for Wikipedia with a damn sight more articles than Wikitravel, why the <boggle>? Innate predjudice?
See especially
Retaining the existing variety
If an article has evolved using predominantly one variety, the whole article should conform to that variety, unless there are reasons for changing it based on strong national ties to the topic. In the early stages of writing an article, the variety chosen by the first major contributor to the article should be used, unless there is reason to change it based on strong national ties to the topic. Where an article that is not a stub shows no signs of which variety it is written in, the first person to make an edit that disambiguates the variety is equivalent to the first major contributor.
Whether you like it or not, in some countries both Proper and American English are taught. You will end up with "a crazy patchwork" anyway. Forcing American English down the throats of unwilling people will only result in fewer articles with less information. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs)
It's this innate prejudice that a travel guide to, say, Istanbul, should not have one chapter written in "Proper English," and the others in "American English." Anyway, it's clear that you care very deeply about this issue, but I don't think this discussion is going anywhere; perhaps it might be therapeutic to work towards Wikitravel's goal, to create a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide, and get writing or illustrating travel content. --Peter Talk 02:36, 13 February 2009 (EST)
Well, the Russian pages are proof that you are wrong. The majority are written in Commonwealth English, a few are are a mishmash with Commonwealth English prevailing. One is translated from Russian sources complete with AM/PM and American measurements! You set out to create a Russian zone where people would add their experiences, but you demanded (via Wikitravel's MoS) they bow down to the "American Way". It won't happen.
Well, then we can keep the Russian pages as Commonwealth English; hell, I wouldn't oppose a blanket rule to make all Europe use British spelling, since they already seem to prefer it anyway. Happy now?
And oh, the AM/PM thing is a sitewide standard quite separate from spelling, although there's been debate somewhere about that as well. Jpatokal 11:39, 16 February 2009 (EST)
The Russian pages are scant and often out of date. Indeed much of Wikitravel is out of date. As long as Wikitravel insists on being an "American" wiki it will probably remain useless. I've looked at many locations and Wikitravel is a waste of time and effort. The latest "Lonely Planet Guide" to almost any region is far more up-to-date and cheaper considering printing costs. Plus it's written in Commonwealth English. Whilst American hubris prevails, Wikitravel fails. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs)
Cool, if you need suggestions on where to buy LP guides, I'm happy to help. Borders has a pretty good selection, or ships most anywhere – cacahuate talk 19:02, 15 February 2009 (EST)
Weeks later, the MOS remains pro-American and yet you still wonder why people don't contribute? Most English speakers aren't American! Wikitravel remains a waste of time and effort. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs)
Uhh... did you read any of the comments above? Would standardizing on Commonwealth English for all Europe articles, including Russia, make you happier? Jpatokal 08:35, 3 March 2009 (EST)
I'd like to propose that we make the policy that all American articles use Commonwealth spelling, and all Commonwealth English countries use American spelling. That way we can filter out all the spelling pedants, and pointlessly bigoted editors before we start, and we demonstrate that as a travel site we are truly catering for travelers and not just appeasing the locals. Sounds fair to me. --Inas 17:50, 3 March 2009 (EST)
For non-english-speaking destinations let's alternate monthly. That way everybody gets a chance to be alienated. -- Mark 03:51, 14 June 2009 (EDT)


Hi all. Though I'm a big fan of commonwealth spellings I'd like to propose that as an international solution the Oxford English Dictionary has its own rules which differ from commonwealth spelling in a few details (eg: z for s in organization).

International organizations like the UN, WHO and many NGOs use the OED spellings, so why not us.

Also for purely self-serving reasons we use it where I work, so I would no longer have to switch dictionaries for Wikitravel. -- Mark 01:21, 15 June 2009 (EDT)

Are you proposing such for all articles, or merely those for which the current policy says to use Commonwealth spelling?
In the former case, it doesn't solve the original issue of spelling pedants believing they are entitled to own the spelling form of their national articles, or the issue of most people editing using the local dialect.
In the latter case, although the OED has always preferred "-ize", it really doesn't reflect the reality of usage in commonwealth countries, which use "-ise", and regard "-ize", as an Americanism. --inas 01:37, 15 June 2009 (EDT)
No, not really. I'm just being flippant. I am a medievalist about spelling and so I like to tweak people who are really into it. Also I'm lazy and I don't want to switch dictionaries.
So I guess the real answer is that if possible I would like to see OED implemented everywhere because I have to use it at work, so it works for me and everybody else can just suck it up. ;) -- Mark 16:34, 15 June 2009 (EDT)
It's quite obvious is it not? The majority of backlash on here against American English is rooted in rampant anti-Americanism. I say make it mandatory that every article be written in American English to make everything consistent and anybody who doesn't like it should stop using the services. End of story. 23:34, 3 January 2010 (EST)
Lovely to receive such well-considered advice from somebody who can't even be bothered to open an account :). Things are just fine the way they are thanks. This site is about writing travel guides, not language pedantry. I was not aware until today that this page even existed. --Burmesedays 00:00, 4 January 2010 (EST)
Fine words coming from an American-hating, Bali-living, fish-and-chip-on-your-shoulder Brit such as yourself. --Peter Talk 00:27, 4 January 2010 (EST)
Do American's spell troll with one l or two? :) --Burmesedays 01:06, 4 January 2010 (EST)


swept in from the pub

How does one do dashes w/ wiki markup? I tend to use them a lot. Rastapopulous 10:38, 19 November 2009 (EST)

I don't know about wiki markup, but html will produce ndashes and mdashes. You'll have to edit this section to see the code itself, but it's basically ampersandmdashsemicolon:

--Peter Talk 10:50, 19 November 2009 (EST)

I seem to remember that a long while ago, three hyphens --- made a long dash and two a short one. But there was a furor of pedantry at Wikipedia about this and the usual endless discussion. I may of course be recalling that all wrong. In any case, I always use html :). --Burmesedays 11:07, 19 November 2009 (EST)
&ndash; and &mdash; are the codes Peter was trying to explain. =) As for the double- and triple-hyphens, that's an old typewriter trick that works well enough on talk pages and the like but isn't considered good form for publishing. And there's no MediaWiki feature that automatically converts them. LtPowers 11:35, 19 November 2009 (EST)
I always use this one: —. It is listed under the commenting page behind "Wiki markup". --globe-trotter 15:23, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

What about alternative spellings?[edit]

The spelling society has a nice summary of proposed English spelling reforms. It looks like pretty much any of them would be immensely annoying to the orthography fans here. I'm particularly fond of Zinglish. Neat huh? -- Mark 07:12, 20 June 2009 (EDT)

American and British English[edit]

I am having a discussion about the use of American English on the Bangkok page. Some anon users seem to be offended by this and keep changing it to British English — but English usage in Thailand is inconclusive. There is no standard way of writing English in Thailand, both are used interchangeably (although commercial enterprises seem to prefer American English and the public sector leans more towards British English). So, then, which way of writing is right? I think we should make a list of countries/continents in the world and then decide whether British or American English be used in that country. I am now having the same issues with articles in the Netherlands and I do not want to change all the articles there later on, so I think it would be good to have an agreement in principal on which English variety is used in which country. I understand American English is used in the US, Canadian English in Canada, etc., but what about those parts of the world without a standard variety? --globe-trotter 15:14, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

What about the following proposal (just from the top of my head, I am not sure about the Americas though):
Country Variety
Australia Australian English
Africa, except South Africa British English
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bahamas, Bermuda, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadaloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Saba, St. Barthelemy, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Martin/St. Maarten, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands British English
Asia, except Japan, Philippines, South Korea British English
Belize British English
Canada Canadian English
Central America, except Belize American English
Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico American English
Falkland Islands British English
Greenland British English
Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname British English
Ireland British English
Japan American English
Marshall Islands American English
Mexico American English
Oceania, except Australia, New Zealand, Palau, Marshall Islands and U.S. Territories British English
Palau American English
Philippines American English
Russia British English
South Africa South African English
South America, except Falkland Islands, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana American English
South Korea American English
United Kingdom British English
United States American English
U.S. Virgin Islands American English
U.S. Territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands) American English

Just an idea to kick-start this discussion. --globe-trotter 16:02, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

To be honest, I wonder if we really need such rules, when the other option isn't "wrong". For the Netherlands for example, I'm not a fan of the "British English" choice, but would neither be for American English. Although British spelling is desperately taught in schools, American English is at least as popular in daily use, due to tv and internet. I'm not sure it's a good idea to want to take a stand in all those linguistic discussions. I'm not bothered by a mix of spellings, but if one would have to be used, it would also make sense to me to just leave it to whoever fills an article and just follow that choice when adding more info. Justme 16:20, 13 August 2011 (EDT)
I keep having discussions with different opinions about this usage in articles about Thailand and the Netherlands, and with the lack of policy, these discussions are never-ending and never solved. I think some rules could clear up these endless discussions and make a solid guideline. I have been using American English for the writings in these two countries, but that's mostly done as I have a personal preference for it. In the Netherlands, British English is taught in schools, so I feel using British English for it is more logical than American English. --globe-trotter 16:29, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

I see no good reason to enforce the use British English in guides for any nations in the Americas except for former British colonies in the Caribbean. What's the rationale? Also, subsidiary point, but it makes sense for British English to be standard in the Jamaica article. Even if Jamaica has its own, separate standard English (which I didn't think it did), few other than Jamaicans would know it. Ikan Kekek 17:41, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

It hasn't been my goal to force British English upon other nations. I write in American English myself. I am mostly trying to at least make a choice between a variety, so I do not need to change it afterwards after putting a lot of work in it. Why I chose for British English in Europe, Africa and Asia is because many of the countries in these regions have historic ties with Britain and often British English is taught in schools. It's at least that way in Europe. This doesn't mean I want to force users to write in a particular way -- it's just that users know which variety to follow in case they want to nominate the article for star. --globe-trotter 18:06, 13 August 2011 (EDT)
This would not be an issue if WT had chosen a standard for spelling across the whole site. Same goes for many other standards. But it is far too late to make an orderly decision of that nature. Having a standard for spelling for each country is the next best thing, and for trying to organise that, well done to Globe-trotter.--Burmesedays 19:03, 13 August 2011 (EDT)
The history behind the current policy can be seen at Wikitravel talk:Spelling/Commonwealth English proposal (amongst many such discussions). There was originally a single standard, which was to use American English in all articles, but some very nasty and hugely distracting edit wars forced a change to the current "use the local spelling" compromise. -- Ryan • (talk) • 21:25, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

Globe-trotter: I didn't talk about Europe, Africa, or Asia, where I would agree with your choices. I specifically posted about the Americas. I see no good reason to enforce or prefer British English anywhere in the Western Hemisphere except for current and former British colonies in the Caribbean. My personal policy has been that I do not "correct" British English in any articles that are not in the US, but I revert "corrections" TO British English for articles for anyplace in the Americas that's not a current or former British dependency in the Caribbean.

Ah okay, I already wrote "I am not sure about the Americas though". I've changed the Americas to American English, but there are many Caribbean nations with ties to the UK. --globe-trotter 21:06, 13 August 2011 (EDT)
Err.. Canada? And a large chunk of the United Kingdom and Africa, as well as all or most of Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Greenland, Ireland and various very British Atlantic territories (eg Falkland Islands), are in the Western Hemisphere. --Burmesedays 21:08, 13 August 2011 (EDT)
I always understood and was taught in school that the "Western Hemisphere" consists of North, Central, and South America, never of Africa or any part of Europe. It's interesting that you were apparently taught otherwise. I doubt you could find an American who was taught or thinks the British Isles are in the Western Hemisphere, not the Eastern Hemisphere. And though I referred to the Caribbean, of course the Falkland Islands, being a dependency of the UK, would take English English. As for Canada, they have their own standard Canadian English, which should take priority, as in Globe-trotter's chart. Greenland, since it's politically related to Denmark, presumably (unless perhaps Greenlanders were to object) takes British English, which is the European standard, and I suppose I'd apply that (though the case may be more tenuous) to Iceland, unless Icelanders disagree and prefer American English (which could well be the case - or not! - given the large US base at Keflavik). I don't actually care about the details of this debate overmuch; I just don't want every guide dealing with the Americas outside the US to be "corrected" into British English, because that strikes me as inappropriate. Ikan Kekek 23:01, 13 August 2011 (EDT)
It is not really worth debating as you say, but you had some strange school teachers :) :). More seriously, The Western Hemisphere is a scientific term for the half of the earth west of the Greenwich Meridien. See here: I suspect the term has also been causally used to refer to the Americas only. So to save confusion, and even excepting Canada, the advice that the Western Hemisphere aside from the Caribbean uses American English should be put straight. --Burmesedays 23:11, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

Great work on that table Globe-trotter. I think it will be very useful to have a reference of this type. On South America, I wonder if Guyana uses British English? I suspect it does but am not sure.--Burmesedays 23:48, 13 August 2011 (EDT)

Yes, definitely British English for Guyana, and, for the sake of completeness, also for all dependencies, overseas departments, or former colonies of European countries like France and the Netherlands, such as St. Martin/St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Aruba, Curacao, Surinam, etc. I join in thanking you, Globe-trotter. Thanks for broaching the discussion, and I'm glad to come to an agreement that we can work with. Ikan Kekek 05:42, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
Yes, this is an issue really needing some attention and it is really encouraging to see the feedback that has occurred already. As globe-trotter points out, it is not only an issue of thematic and linguistic consistency, often a lot of time can be wasted trying to determine the current article language use and determining if it is appropriate to go one way or the other when there is a mix. Often there is a mix of course, and often this seems to occur when a casual reader decides that the spelling or phraseology used in the article is wrong and makes some random adjustments. globe-trotter should be commended for bringing this matter forward. The table is a great idea and certainly assists in giving some very useful clarity to the matter. Good work. -- felix 06:03, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
I've made a few corrections, and we probably will need to do so in the future as we get more input. (For the Caucasus example, I know that Georgia teaches American English, I suspect the same for Armenia, and have no idea about Azerbaijan.)
Also, is this really something we would want to include in the star criteria? Personally, I'm really not familiar enough with British standards to write in them at a professional level. --Peter Talk 06:15, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
I added a few entries to Globe-trotter's chart. Please discuss if any of them are controversial. Ikan Kekek 06:28, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
I don't believe you Peter :). A few s's instead of z's, ou's instead of o's and the odd double l, and you will be fine. And there's always a spell-checker set to a proper English dictionary. --Burmesedays 06:33, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
The most common changes are between "er" and "re" and between "or" and "our." Center -> centre. Odor -> odour. The most confusing thing is American short-hand dates; the British/European style I learned in Malaysia (day/month/year) and the Chinese style (year/month/day) are much more logical. But that's a topic for another thread. :-)
I do appreciate the effort you've put into making this table, globe-trotter, and thanks for that. I can see how it would help to have a "preference per country" to come back to in case there are discussions and I agree that a star article should have /one/ spelling over the whole text. However, if an article about a German or Dutch city needs British spelling to be able to reach star status, we are forcing a spelling on users, aren't we? And what would this choice mean in general use? Will we actively change texts that use the not-preferred variety? I'm Dutch, and I attach limited value to the choice of British English in schools. To me it's an administrative choice based on historic ties, whereas language command in practice is much more determined by popular culture and media. Again, I'm in favor such a table as a back-up, but I wouldn't be in favor of including it in star criteria. To me, if someone is obviously putting a lot of effort in a single article, it should be their choice which spelling to use. Justme 09:12, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
Personally, I've always thought of this policy as a way to determine whether to revert a parochial spelling pedant or to simply ignore. I'd get grumbly if someone told me to go back and anglicize some article I wrote about Russia. If someone else finds that to be a rewarding way of passing the time, by all means ;) --Peter Talk 23:40, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
As long as articles are consistent it probably doesn't matter much. Having the reference table is very helpful though to deal with those very pedants you mention. I am not sure we should insist on one format or the other as a star criteria except in obvious cases. I notice that even Singapore is written in American, and nobody commented at the time. However, it would for example be very odd to read a beautifully written article about Minchinhampton written in American. Likewise Las Vegas written in British. --Burmesedays 23:56, 14 August 2011 (EDT)
Yeah I more meant this as a guideline for spelling pedants :-) I've been having some anon edits at the Bangkok page who are fiercely changing American English spelling into British English. I'd rather invest my time in writing about a destination itself, but I was just wondering which spelling variety would eventually be the best for which destination. --globe-trotter 12:32, 15 August 2011 (EDT)

I thought it was our general practice to follow the conventions of the destination. If finding it a mixed bag then it would be appropriate to correct the spelling to the convention that was most historically appropriate to the article, however that would ideally need to be done across the article if time permitted. The anon edits to the Bangkok article seemed to have a bee in their collective bonnets, I guess they were technically correct though. Certainly it is most important that if anyone takes it upon themselves to change an article to either US or UK English that it must be applied across the entire article and a change should only be made if it is clearly regionally appropriate, such as anglicising an Indian or Pakistani article, or americanizing a Phillipino article. Many destinations are potentially ambigious though, and I include both Indonesia and Thailand in that group. Close examination does indicate an 'official' preference toward EN UK rather than EN US in both those countries, with the commercial sector often leaning toward the adoption of "center" and other US EN practice. In somewhere such as Thailand this leaves us using the correct name of a commercial enterprise such as Siam Center, yet correctIy describing something as being in the city centre. The Thai govt appears to use EN UK and US EN appears to be limited to some commercial endeavours. I note that in Indonesia most Kamus or Dictionaries tend to use EN UK when offering English language word equivalents, though I have not gone to look and check, maybe mine is in UK EN and there are others that differ, the schools certainly teach UK EN...or something resembling it. It leads to a somewhat mixed conclusion but I guess it is technically correct to use UK EN in Indonesia and Thailand, and certainly in Malaysia and Singapore. Fortunately most places are a lot more straightforward than those examples. I noticed the Singapore article has a mix of US & UK EN a long while back and I have noted that tourists are still visiting the destination so it does not seem to have put any one off going there. It has for example 53 matches to centre and 14 to center.
I think what irks many of us is the pedants-on-tour who decide they must do some 'corrective' work on a well established article by americanizing or alternatively anglicising bits and pieces of it, often seemingly at random. (BTY, my current spell checker spells "anglicising" as anglicizing). I think we have all seen the results of the American tourist visiting Paris, Florence, Siam Reap or where-ever and deciding that the spelling and phraseology is all wrong and then setting about fixing some of it, placing a previously stylistically acceptable and consistent article into a mish-mash. Americanizing edits to articles such as Iran may sometimes be a little more nefarious, hence I revert them if I see them as Iran does not appear to favour US EN. This table offers a good standard reference point that may at least assist in some clarity. It is also very Guideline worthy and I hope that it finds its way into Spelling when it is resolved. Such exercises as this are certainly productive and useful but we must all remember that content is more important than regionalised spelling, rubbish is still rubbish, even if it is corrected to trash. -- felix 13:05, 15 August 2011 (EDT)


Repeating something I wrote above (#Disputed_box). my suggestion is:

  • writers: use either American or Commonwealth English, whatever you are comfortable with.
  • editors: do not "fix" dialect differences; there are far better uses of your time than changing "center" to "centre" or "traveller" to "traveler, or vice versa.

I think the whole notion that we need a "standard" here is misguided. Pashley 23:48, 17 August 2011 (EDT)

So, what then if different varieties are used throughout the article? Or district pages from a huge city use different varieties? There must be some standard, else it's inconsistent. --globe-trotter 00:31, 18 August 2011 (EDT)
I think where it's obvious one version or another should be used (such as in the case of British spelling in Malaysia), "corrections" should be made, but where it's not so obvious (e.g., Thailand), my own practice is the same as Pashley's, and the British Language Police for never-British non-European countries like Thailand annoy me. It really doesn't matter to me which kind of English is used in articles about Thailand as long as it's good English, and I don't think it's that important which version is used as long as it's consistent throughout a single article about someplace in Thailand. Not that I dispute the chart Globe-trotter so helpfully made, though; I don't. Ikan Kekek 04:35, 19 August 2011 (EDT)
Sign in Bluefields, Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua
I think the acid test is not whether our policy annoys you or globe-trotter, etc - but whether it annoys readers. I'm afraid it's impossible to come up with a policy that won't annoy somebody, somewhere. However, I do think our current spelling policy seems to be working well from a practical perspective.
Rather than use "globe-trotter's chart" above (which has some glaring errors and omissions - the British Virgin Islands have always used US English and British English is an official language in Nicaragua; I won't even mention the situation with Argentinian and Chilean English) I would commend our English language varieties article to editors when considering what variety of English to use for destination articles about the rare situation where a new country comes into existence. (Variety should, of course, be consistent across all destination articles relating to a particular country). --Ttcf (talk) 00:56, 23 February 2014 (EST)

The traveller came first, not the spellchecker[edit]

In the beginning the founder of Wikitravel, Evan Prodromou (a San Franciscan living in Montreal), used what is an idiosyncratic spelling for Americans of travelling and travellers in all of the Wikitravel articles he first started in July 2003:

Just a short while later there had been a bit of a stoush about using US spelling and Evan expressed a willingness to change to Commonwealth English throughout all our articles and for the sake of consistency. To cut a long story short, this change to standardising on Commonwealth English throughout was not approved but, as part of a peace offering, we standardised on the European date format of dd mmm yyyy and using this "idiosyncratic" spelling of travelling and travellers in all Wikitravel articles.

Does anybody now think this long-standing spelling idiosyncrasy should be changed and we should get busy in travel topics, policy pages and articles about destinations in the United States of America, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Philippines, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan changing the spelling of travelling and travellers to traveling and travelers ? --Ttcf (talk) 00:56, 23 February 2014 (EST)

I thought traveler and traveling was American English. In short, I am fine with that spelling. Ozymandias (talk) 15:01, 18 September 2015 (EDT)


I see this a lot referring to a meal's main course. Is this Kiwi slang or something? Can we stick to standard English? Ozymandias (talk) 14:49, 18 September 2015 (EDT)