American-English or English Spelling in Blogs?


Posted on March 24th, by Andrew Kelsall in Blogging. 31 comments

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The last time a flew over to Florida on holiday, I can fondly remember having a bowl of Froot Loops® (which aren’t sold in England) and recognizing how brightly colored they were…or were they coloured?

As an Englishman, I know all-too-well that there are differences between English spelling and American-English spelling. Being aware of this, I always try to tailor the language of my articles to the main target audience. For example, for general articles, I will use American-English spelling as my reader-base is about 66% American. However, for my posts about work that I have done locally here in the UK, I will use native English spelling. Why? Because these articles are not only aimed at the ‘general reader’ and subscribers, but my local market—who may want to hire me for similar work, etc.

There is a resourceful Wikipedia article regarding some of the differences between the spelling of particular words on both sides of the pond. Here are some commonly-used words used:

(English version first, then American-English)

Colour Color
Aeroplane Airplane
Aluminium Aluminum
Mum Mom (I would never use this one)
Cheques Checks
Speciality Specialty

Furthermore, many UK words ending with “ise” such as specilise, recognise, and realise are spelt organize, recognize, and realize in American. Oh coarse I could go on and on, well beyond the scope of this post — I could discuss the use of totally different American and British words with the same meaning (Holiday and Vacation, for example), but I’ll end this article here.

What kind of spelling do you use of your blog or site? Do you tailor your language like myself, or always use one or the other? Your opinions are welcome…

**UPDATE**

Since writing this article about a year ago, I have changed my mind on the whole issue. Why? Because even though it sounded like a smart choice at the time, I realised over the past few months how annoying it all was. It seemed right for me to adjust the spelling in my actual blog posts, but when it came to writing replies to comments “in my own voice” so -to-speak, I hit a conundrum. How could spool-off natural comments when I was constantly adjusting the spelling? I couldn’t keep doing it.

I started to revert back to my native English spelling a few posts ago, and glad I did so. Final note: Alex, Richard, Aaron, David, Chris and Rebecca—your advice was correct all along—thanks for your input.

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31 Responses to “American-English or English Spelling in Blogs?”

  1. I use British-English – I don’t see much sense in changing my spelling since it’s understandable either way.

    When writing books, though, they tend to be aimed at the American market, so the publisher makes extra efforts to ensure the book is in American-English.

  2. I know that it is understandable to the majority of readers, but that’s not the only consideration in my opinion. What about when American readers search using their spelling in Google? If most of my readers were British, that is the spelling structure I would use.

    Like you stated about books; most of my computer and design-related ones are American-English, even though some are British (like some by Author Cameron Moll).

    I can remember about a week or so ago, on David Aireys blog someone accusing him of not spell-checking some interviews which he published, when he included “checks” not “Cheques”. It does go to show that a level of confusion does exist.

    Maybe there could be a WordPress Plugin to adapt spelling depending on IP location?

  3. Being Australian I do things the British way as it’s who I am. Why do things incorrectly for who you are and what you were told in school? Spelling colour with a u is part of my identity in a tiny way, no?

    Doing othwerise is kind of like going to America and trying to talk in an American accent because it’s their normal..

    also google seems to make adaptions? Search for colour, you get color, and vice-versa..

    Alex Charchars last blog post..The Art of the Title

  4. Alex, thanks for adding a new angle, this is turning into quite a debate. I wasn’t aware that Google.com made such adaptations. I’ll look into this one, as my decision to primarily use American-English spelling was partly made with that preconception in-mind.

    I can see where you’re coming from regarding ones identity, but I’m just trying to look at my site through 2 lenses, that of an author and SEO-optimiser, hay, an English spelling that time ;)

    BTW, I don’t know why your comment didn’t appear straight away and needed moderation, I’m looking into my WP settings…

  5. Interesting article. I’m over here in the states (NY) but I read a lot of books by british authors growing up (Brian Jacques, G.A. Henty etc..) and because of that I frequently mix and match my spelling of different words without even meaning to.

    I actually lost a spelling bee when I was 13 for spelling “Honor” as “Honour”, the funny thing was that the spelling bee was at this mari-time museum/period village that was supposed to be set in Colonial times, back when the spelling would have been the British way. Sadly they didn’t let me appeal it. :-(

    George – LogoDesign.orgs last blog post..Up For Discussion #4: Office Strategies Logo by SiahDesign

  6. Hi George,

    Seems as though this confusion isn’t just an issue on the web. When I get time, I’m going to research into why Americans have different spellings in the first place. Seems strange to me!

    I didn’t know you were from New York. I’ve been to NY City now 3 times now (and loved it), but funnily enough, never been to London despite being here in the UK.

  7. Rob Cubbon says:

    Good post, Andrew, I have frequent wondered about this issue. To answer your question, I use British English spelling in my blog. Why? Well, that’s how I started so I’m carrying on for the sake of consistency. But, like you, most of my readership is American so if I could start again I’d probably choose American English. Particularly, as now the pound is so low against the dollar and set to stay that way for a while, I should be able to pick up some lucrative American business and I don’t want Americans thinking I can’t spell and have poor attention to detail! I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be better just to use America spellings period. Haha!

    Andrew, you really should go to London.

    Rob Cubbons last blog post..How to market yourself #3: How to install a WordPress blog on your site

  8. Hi Rob,

    It’s good to hear your point of view as opposed in Alex’s. I suppose it all comes down to both personnel taste and business goals. It makes sense what you wrote about consistency, however for me, consistency is just confined to any one particular post.

    I have, though, been thinking about installing a ‘Local Side Blog’ (For example, …andrewkelsall.com/local-blog/example-post) just to feature posts aimed at the UK, but I don’t think I have the time to be constantly updating and maintaining both.

    BTW, I just decided that I should visit London recently. So, in January, I’m off to stay at a friends house 20 minutes away from Canary Wharf. Going to the London Eye me thinks ;)

  9. I use British spelling because, well, I’m British and as Alex points out above, it’s my identity and who I am and I’m proud of that. That pride weighs in far more importantly for me than making things easier for my American friends to read (and to be honest, you gotta be pretty daft to not understand what I mean because I spell with an S and not a Z) or making my site rank in search engines for American spelling.

    Aaron Russells last blog post..Improving WordPress’ the_excerpt() template tag

  10. @ Aaron,

    For me, being part of who I am has nothing to do with whether I use a Z or an S. If you take it to the extreme, being who I am is spelling words as I like to spell them. But no, I use a spell checker to spell words correctly. For me, being mindful of the end reader is more important than my own personal preferences.

    I’m not the only blogger doing this. On Rob Cubbon’s latest post, he has typed this statement:

    Apologies to my English brethren, forefathers and Shakespeare, I’m using American spellings from now on. Most of my visitors are American and with the pound down so low I’d be especially pleased to attract American clients! (As I am pleased to attract a client from anywhere!)

    I noticed recently that Cameron Moll also uses American spelling, and he’s a well-known English Designer/Blogger.

  11. Rob Cubbon says:

    I saw that this discussion had perked up again so I thought I’d come back to add another tuppence. I think it’s because Americans are more likely to actually think you’ve made a mistake with a British spelling whereas others would know the difference. That’s the main reason behind my decision to use American English.

    I may be wrong though, but, like you Andrew, I don’t really see it as important to my identity.

    So did you go to the London Eye or pop into Tate Modern while you were there?

    Rob Cubbons last blog post..How to market yourself #5: How to optimize your WordPress site for search engines

  12. @ Rob

    Yeah, I think it’s a case of “each to his own” (or “her” better be politically correct).

    I’m not saying that I am right, and all others are wrong. I, like yourself and others have chosen American-English but anyone who writes a blog can do what they see is fit.

    My trip to London has been delayed for various reasons, but I’m now set to go on Friday the 6th Feb. I’ll be sure to post a pic, probably from the London Eye. I’m planning to visit Tate as well, thanks for asking Rob.

  13. Of course, each to their own, I hope my clenched fist, British bulldog moment of patriotism wasn’t taken as an insult against your own decision to use American English spelling. Up to you. :)

    However, I don’t agree that using American spelling will get you any further in the search rankings or win you any extra business. Or more to the point, I don’t agree that NOT using American spelling will have the opposite affect. Ultimately you’ll be successful only by being great at what you do.

    Aaron Russells last blog post..Improving WordPress’ the_excerpt() template tag

  14. A fair point there Aaron :)

    I do like what Rob mentioned, though, about how us British are used to American spelling, but not always vise-versa.

    I’ve stumbled on quire a lot of conversations in blogs before when Americans are either asking or commenting on British spelling. However, I’ve never read any post or commenting asking a American why they used “Z” not “S”.

    On a negative note on myself, I’ve come to realise that It IS confusing to me writing in American English. For example, I just typed “realise” by instinct, but my FireFox spell checker has just underlined it.

    Like I said back in the article, I still plan to use native UK for posts on UK work, etc. I do admit that inconsistency does bother me a bit though.

  15. Nice discussion, Andrew.

    I think the most relevant point comes from Aaron:

    Ultimately, you will be successful only by being great at what you do.

    I’m using the language I was taught to use, though find it interesting how you, Rob and Cameron have switched allegiances.

  16. Hi David

    It’s interesting how you wrote ‘I’m using the language I was taught to use’. When I write my posts, I do exactly that, write as I was taught also. When my posts are written, I just amend the words that are highlighted with my American-English spell checker.

    I hope that somewhere down-the-line, there will be a WP Plugin that will just amend certain words depending on Country IP address. Until then, I think I’ll stick to USA spelling, but only for broad-based posts.

    I may be wrong, but I’ll see how it goes. It’s been great to gage your opinion as well as Aaron, Rob, Richard, George and Alex, too.

    Thanks for your input.

  17. You’re very welcome, Andrew. That plugin idea sounds great. You could go one step further and change the language of your blog posts depending upon country. Now that would really open things up.

  18. I tend to use English-English for the most part, but switch when referring to a pre-named command or tool when writing tutorials. EG: Change the colour to red using the color picker.

    Maybe we should all take it a step further and just write in regional slang.
    .-= Chris Spooner´s last blog ..Top Places to Find Quality Illustrator Tutorials Online =-.

  19. Rebecca says:

    I blog for companies in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. I use the spelling used in the nation in which the blog is based. I think it sounds more natural to do this — I don’t want Aussie readers thinking the Aussies I write for sound like Yanks.
    I don’t think that readers of English get confused by the UK vs. US differences. Our lit courses are full of Brits. I don’t even think the search engines are confused by UK vs. US differences — try Googling phrases using “colour” or “color” and you’ll find that Google ignores the distinction (at least in the U.S.).
    Those who are interested in why the differences exist might enjoy the book Righting the Mother Tongue by David Wolman. It could even help with remembering which is which.

  20. @Chris → If I talked in the regional slang of South Yorkshire, I’d be like:

    Oi Spooner me ol’ mucka, what’s tha talkin’ abart?

    Seriously though, the reason why I’m still asking opinions on this, is that I think I may backtrack on my decision. The whole thing is getting somewhat confusing, so the debate it still ongoing on this matter. Maybe I’ll change back, I don’t know.

    Thanks for stopping by…

    @Rebecca → Thanks for your thoughts on this matter. I may look into ‘Righting the Mother Tongue’ when time permits.

  21. robin says:

    I just have one small comment about the one of your spelling differences.
    I’m in Canada and we spell it ‘COLOUR’ and the US spell it ‘COLOR’ like you say the English spell it.
    …so I guess there’s one word you have in common with the US.

  22. @Robin → I think you’ve misread something. We English spell it Colour, not color like the American-English version.

  23. Jill Atkinson says:

    Being Canadian we follow the Queen’s English. However, the American spelling of colour is “color” – Americans drop the “U”s in words like flavour and shorten double mm’s found in words like programme to “program” and our premiere is their premier. It’s all very confusing, especially when you work for a public broadcaster and have to be always on the lookout for Americanized or Americanised spelling.

  24. @Jill → I don’t know how American-English spelling even came into being. It would be a lot simply for everyone if the Queen’s English was used, as you say.

    And what about non “A” paper sizing? Don’t get me started on that one, lol….

  25. Andrew says:

    Good post, very interesting. I’ve always gone for the american spelling in posts etc. I think I’m to used to it now to change

  26. Jacob Cass says:

    I personally always use my native spelling (Australian / British) and make a constant effort to keep it coherent for all my writing.
    .-= Jacob Cass´s last blog ..A word on spelling differences =-.

  27. @Andrew & Jacob → From now on, it’s English spelling all the way, unless I intentionally misspell something. I too will be coherent in it from now on…

  28. Can’t we use the following technique will web designing ?

    Use American English as standard and markup them with acronym tag which would show the other spelling of it ?

  29. Jessica says:

    Hey Andrew,
    Robin didn’t misread anything, under the “English list” of words like mum, aeroplane and aluminium, you’ve put the word “Color” instead of “Colour”. You just need to do a swapsies so “colour” is first, and THEN “color” under the American English.

    Oh, and being aussie, I don’t pet my dog. He is my pet and I pat him :)

  30. […] have been reading a blog about the difference between UK and American English.  In his blog: http://www.andrewkelsall.com/american-english-or-english-spelling-in-blogs/, Andrew first said that he writes using the spelling of the target audience.  However a year […]

  31. I have been reading a blog about the difference between UK and American English. I know how to spell, but I do get confused between the English. Australian and American spelling. Generally I will use Australian, but due to MS Word having the USA spell checker, some of my words fall back to the American spelling. So when I right I make sure it is correct for at least on of these languages.
    :)

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