One of my answers was changed; I agree with most of the changes but it also involved changing from british to american spelling (specialised -> specialized and initialising -> initializing). As a continental european, I have accustomed to writing in british spelling; Is this deprecated here?

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    David Carlisle is from UK, so it is quite dangerous to change US to UK spelling. Jun 8, 2017 at 17:52
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  • There are a few British English words which must be spelled -ise, for example advertise, televise, compromise, and improvise, but -ize has been part of standard BrEng since the 16th century in words like terrorize, sterilize, etc. The global objection to -ize rather than -ise in BrEng is recent (20th century) and mostly illogical.
    – alephzero
    Jun 12, 2017 at 22:29
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    @alephzero -- the four words you cite are consistently spelled that way in u.s. english, and -ize would be exceedingly nonstandard. (i can't confirm or deny the u.k. spelling.) Jun 13, 2017 at 0:39
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    Speaking as the guy who made those edits... I actually just thought they were typos. Once I realized they were differences in U.K. vs. U.S. English, I have been more careful with my edits. Apologies! Jun 21, 2017 at 0:23

1 Answer 1


The site language is 'English' but (within reason) the idiom of the original poster should be preserved. In particular, there should generally not be an issue with using either US or UK conventions on spelling. When editing, I would normally correct typos or make other changes in line with the author's intention, but would not change US/UK spelling and where adding any information always use the form chosen by the original author. (I am from the UK so prefer UK English, but if editing a post in US English leave that alone.)

The one more grey area is where the idiom rather than spelling might cause confusion. This is likely to be very rare, but where it occurs I would tend to look for a 'neutral' presentation (so avoiding either UK- or US-centric expressions).

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    totally agreed. to reiterate: two important things: (1) be consistent; (2) if something is confusing to you as a native english speaker (of whatever persuasion) it will most likely confuse someone who's not, so ask the op in a comment what is meant, offering suggestions of reasonable possibilities. Jun 8, 2017 at 15:35
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    @barbarabeeton Do not worry about non native speakers. We are equally prone to confusion with both spellings :)
    – Fran
    Jun 8, 2017 at 18:45
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    @Fran -- not referring to just "-ize" vs. "-ise" but also to local colloquialisms and jargon for which there is a perfectly good "standard" term. (ignoring expressions that are obviously meant in jest, which i tend to leave, but perhaps ask for an explanation. after all, some of my favorite funny stories come from erroneous translation or transcription. at a conference with simultaneous translation, "deux colonnes" was translated as "two doves" ("deux colombes"); people around me listening just in french wondered why i was laughing.) Jun 8, 2017 at 19:44
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  • @barbarabeeton "-ize" vs. "-ise" is a myth perpetrated by Microsoft, in their early spelling check dictionaries. Many British English words have been spelled "-ize" for centuries. See the introduction to the Oxford Dictionary for a discussion.
    – alephzero
    Jun 12, 2017 at 22:14
  • @alephzero -- i don't question this. what i do honor is when a tugboat author (almost) consistently uses one or the other, if there is any variance within the document i'm looking at, i modify the outliers to the predominant form, and check thoroughly for full consistency. then i run it by the author for verification. (also, having worked on the editing of some iso standards, i can say the same principle is applied there.,) Jun 13, 2017 at 0:34
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    @alephzero traditionally Oxford dictionaries have preferred --ize and Cambridge --ise. Online we have Oxford: "generalize (also generalise)"; Cambridge "generalize -- UK usually generalise", on paper the distinction tends to be more marked ("see generalise").
    – Chris H
    Jun 15, 2017 at 12:24

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