Recently, one of my answers was edited.

The typo fix is appreciated. The other "fixes" are not. Removing doubled spaces at the end of sentences has no effect on the rendered output, so it just serves to clutter the edit history. Changing from one valid spelling to another is entirely unhelpful. And I'm not sure how the editor came up with "1 steradians."

Can we please not do this in the future? Or if we're going to do it, can we develop a formal policy on which national variant of English we're going to use, and enforce it consistently?

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    I'm guessing the anonymous user was trying to find other things to edit so they could get past the minimum length for suggested edits and get the typo fix into the system. Especially considering the edit comment they left only mentions the typo. I would hope none of the regular users here would approve of arbitrary changing a post's dialect like this...but I have no idea how that edit got approved.
    – Ixrec
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 10:37
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    +1. To quote myself: I'm a native speaker of British English, and can't see why I should be forced to speak in a different dialect in order to participate in a Q&A forum. Both are perfectly intelligible to speakers of the other (there may be a few words like pavement/sidewalk which are different, but in general the differences are minor ones of spelling: centre/center, colour/color, travelling/traveling), so both should be considered acceptable.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 11:55
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    In some cases I don't even know that the word is different in BE/AE and go by my browser's dictionary. (for example 'cancelling' vs 'canceling') Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 13:03
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    @Randal'Thor - I think we can only hope that over time, the Americans will realise the error of their ways :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 15:36
  • @Ixrec I think that that first word is long enough for the system to let the change through by itself.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 17:22
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    @Richard I like the fact that every time this issue comes up, it's the Brits who rush in to post answers (me and AE on Puzzling, you and ASR here).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 17:37
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    @Richard : You mean like putting full stops at the ends of their sentences? ;-)
    – Praxis
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 18:52
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    I find my self contemplating a prank involving a bogus user account under the name 'enry 'iggins. Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 21:56
  • @Randal'Thor It’s not always the British who rush in to answer this question.
    – user35609
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 20:28
  • Note: the use of double spaces after full stops is not an AmE vs. BrE thing. It exists (and is generally considered deprecated and old-fashioned by style guides) in both varieties. Commented May 6, 2016 at 11:00
  • On a slightly related note, the SE standard for tags (and tags only) is that they should be written in AmE... And this, of course, excludes stuff spelled that way intentionally, like a title.
    – Catija
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 22:51
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    @Catija We use Black Speech for tags around here: nazgul.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 3:19
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    One might say that the language belongs to the people, and a reasonable response might be "Which people?", to which I would respond, "The English people, obviously. Their name is written on it." It is a terrible irony that only Americans of low education correctly identify their language as "American".
    – Peter Wone
    Commented May 7, 2016 at 9:37
  • "can we develop a formal policy on which national variant of English we're going to use" -- I would propose (realizing this may be controversial) that the only national variant to consider, for this site, would be US English. Why? If British want their national variant to be standard, then there is a domain that is available for that. Many Brits have .co.uk sites. In contrast, the American country code of .us is largely rejected due to historical restrictions, so Americans have bsically treated .com and .org (and .net) like their country codes.
    – TOOGAM
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 18:38
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    @Randal'Thor Spelling differences are one thing, but then there's stuff like Does Aragorn wear pants?
    – Izkata
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 21:41

4 Answers 4


The simplest rule is that you shouldn't correct overseas spellings. As much as it pains me to say it, both variants of English (US and UK) are equally valid and shouldn't be considered misspellings.

On a personal note, I never correct overseas non-standard English spellings when editing and in fact, I'll go one step further and when editing an answer, if the OP is clearly using US-English, I'll make sure that any edits that I make use US variants too. It's just the polite thing to do.

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    I agree but it is tough not correcting US => UK ;) Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 15:49
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    I agree about spelling, but Indian English word choice can be confusing to people who aren’t familiar with it: “I have a doubt about the K alphabet.” I haven’t seen that sort of thing on scifi.SE though.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 17:20
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    @anaranjada - In fairness, I think if I saw something written in Indian English, Jamaican Standard English or Singaporian English, I'd probably assume it was poor grammar and change it. That being said, no-one has ever pulled me up for it, so I guess a) I'm possibly more careful than I think I am or b) There aren't that many Indian English speakers here or c) They're too polite to correct me for correcting them.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 17:42
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    Unless it's tags, then you use US-English
    – user31178
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 3:49
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    @CreationEdge Uh oh, we better create a synonym for bums now.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 3:54
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    @anaranjada - Lest anyone confuse them with hobos.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 8:20
  • @CreationEdge We have at least one tag in the Black Speech, when it could have been written in English: nazgul rather than [ring-wraiths].
    – Molag Bal
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 19:45
  • @anaranjanda IMO nazgul and ring wraiths should be synonyms. Both are English
    – user31178
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 20:22
  • This is a fun one. Because I've spent half my life in the Anglo-Saxon world and of the half in the US spelling zone and the other one (now) in the British spelling area. It took me long enough to adjust to the latter and that's why it drive me nuts to a) have someone correct it and b) have the editor give me red squigglies. How to I turn that off?
    – Marakai
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 9:27
  • +1 for as much as it pains me to say it
    – AAM111
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 0:04
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    @Wikis - That's the problem: you believe that one of them is correct. English has over a hundred dialects, which are all correct unto themselves. "overseas" is neither here nor there, and attempts to divide it into but two categories; a linguistic faux pas.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 23:24
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    @Marakai : Regarding question b) I have this answer: You add words to the electronic dictionary that is being used by the software that gives you red squigglies. Preferably, not one-at-a-time. Instead, see if the creators of the software distribute compatible dictionaries for both EN-US and EN-UK. Have them both installed. (I think this is the correct answer.) Regarding question a) - the way to turn that off is to fix humanity. Good luck.
    – TOOGAM
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 18:26
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    @Mazura - My understanding is that while other versions of English are considered acceptable in their own vicinities, they're not acceptable on SE which only considers US or UK English to be suitable variants. "Overseas" is perhaps a touch patronising and for that, I apologise.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 18:44

I think this is an instance of Hanlon's Razor

Hanlon's razor is an aphorism expressed in various ways including "never assume bad intentions when assuming stupidity is enough"


I've had the same thing happen to me across the stackexchange network. If it's a problem, you're free to rollback or just edit the post.

For example: If people don't realise that colour is the correct a valid spelling, then they will try to correct it.

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    +1, that's an excellent point. It would be very easy to think that 'colour' was misspelled, given the apparently unneeded silent 'u'.
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 20:58

I personally try to avoid correcting other dialects of English (as noted above by Molag Bal, Indian English might be an exception since I think the grammar would confuse most readers), but I don't always succeed, particularly when spellcheck is flagging the words. If it's flagged as a misspelling, and I don't personally know that it's a correct dialect choice, I'll fix it.


There is a clear understanding on Stack Exchange that regional spelling variations are acceptable and that posts should not be edited to suit the editor's own region. There are some complications with this:

  • An American editor (for example) may truly not know that "colour" is the correct English spelling and so may 'correct' it to "color".
  • The previous point is complicated by the fact that some languages have too many regional variations for anyone to keep track of. Microsoft Office has 18 regional dictionaries for English.

If an edit is erroneously made for one of those reasons, then I think it should be rolled back with a comment to the effect that the word was spelled correctly according to the OP's culture (which should be named).

An earlier comment mentions "Indian word choice" in English. I think there may be a point here that applies to posters from many cultures who are not using their native language. For example, they may:

  • Use a phrase that is a literal interpretation of a common phrase in their language, but is odd or unintelligible in the language they are using.
  • Use a sentence structure that is common in their language, but not in the language they are using.

In these cases, I think it is helpful to edit the wording to reflect the way a native speaker of English (on one side of the pond or the other) would have written it. This makes the post easier to understand for the majority of readers, and so increases the likelihood of a helpful answer.

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