Wikipedia:Standardize spellings/Archive

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This site currently uses both American Spellings and Commonwealth British Spellings. I feel the American spellings should be added to the Wikipedia Style Guide and all British Spellings should be changed over. Imagine all the schoolchildren who are using Wikipedia in the classroom and learning how to spell incorrectly (not that -ours, -ises, and -nnes aren't correct in England.) If we want to be taken seriously, we need standards! Juppiter 07:51, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

ETA: We reached a consensus, so I think it's time to close this poll.

Support: 2

Oppose: 52

Abstain: 2

Juppiter 8 July 2005 15:23 (UTC)

I've created a page for a vaguely similar but more restricted proposal:Wikipedia:Standardise article title spellings or ensure appropriate redirects. Benwing 03:22, 25 July 2005 (UTC)


  1. I totally agree with you! Except you can't take such a polarized position. I'm voting in favour of standardizing on the perfect compromise: convert Wikipedia to Canadian English. While we're at it, let's move side bacon → back bacon, and hat → tuque, eh? Michael Z. 2005-03-27 04:48 Z
    Canadian seems to be the way to go. (it seems to be a fair compromise) BTW, I contributed an article on Wine Gums and someone decided that since some of the spellings were "British", that they would convert the entire article into British dialect. :( However, I object to the discriminatory use of the word "English". A more politically correct word would be "Anglo-based language". --Munchkinguy 23:14, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    And let's surprize the rest of the world with genuine Canadian hypour-spellings. I'll try to come up with an even bettre proposal. Let us all try to be propour spellours. See you latre. Nobbie 04:44, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
    Second choice would be Canadian spellings, even though I'm not Canadian. First choice would be current policy. Jonathunder 06:50, 2005 May 10 (UTC)
  2. Not that my vote is going to matter much, considering the number of people who opposed, but oh well. Support.—Ëzhiki (erinaceus europeaus) 14:21, Apr 12, 2005 (UTC)

3. Apparently "British English" is the preferred choice when writing about British music groups (i.e. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen). So what's next: Ebonics for writing about American Hip-Hop groups? "Flo Rida be a musical genious, yo dog!" Seriously, has anyone carefully read some of the "British English" writing? "Led Zeppelin were a rock band." That just sounds wrong.


  1. :And after we do this, imagine all the schoolchildren who are using Wikipedia in the classroom and are learning how to spell incorrectly! The United States isn't the only country in the world that uses English. --Carnildo 08:21, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  2. Why not standardize on British spellings? Or how about New Zealand spellings? --Carnildo 08:21, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    The United States has the largest English speaking population in the world (not to mention, Wikipedia is based in Florida.) Juppiter 22:38, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    If you want to play the numbers game, I have no doubt that because of the British Commonwealth that the number of people who use British spellings for English words outnumbers the number of people who use American spellings for English words. BlankVerse 03:56, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Wikipedia servers are based in Florida. Wikipedia itself is global, and purposefully so. — Jeff Q (talk) 01:40, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    I'm not so sure of that. India has a pretty large English-speaking population. --Carnildo 20:09, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  3. I think that it is an honour to oppose this misguided effort at cultural imperialism. BlankVerse 09:50, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    I'm sorry if you feel that's what it is. Frankly I'm trying to make Wikipedia less amateur and more objective. The simple fact is that one spelling system throughout is more professional looking. Juppiter 22:38, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Personal opinion: The Wikipedia would look much more professional if all of its editors did a much better job of spell-checking using whatever version of English that they want to use. From my experience, most Wikipedia articles that are more than screen in length will have at least one spelling error in it. BlankVerse 04:07, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    that's "more than a screen in length will have more than one spelling error in them ;) Grutness|hello? Grutness.jpg
    At least it was a grammar error and not a spelling error. ;-) BlankVerse 10:33, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    I agree with that. And making spelling consistent for an entire paage to match the majority or the original editor or the subject matter. But then you have to worry about people using whichever of the three reasons fits their version. Oh, also pissing off New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. See User:Omegatron#Spell checker and User talk:Omegatron#Spelling - Omegatron 04:19, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
    It may be more professional, but which American professional should we follow? Different U.S. dictionaries have different accepted spellings for many words. — Jeff Q (talk) 01:45, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  4. Thanks to Wikipedia (and the Internet in general), all variants will be "correct" spellings in the future, in all countries. I bet you five dollars. - Omegatron 15:05, Mar 26, 2005 (UTC)
    I'll take that bet! British Newspapers have style guides that stick to British spellings, while American Newspapers have style guides that stick to American spellings. It would take a change in speech patterns to move them to change their style guides, but since "standardise" and "standardize" are pronounced the same way, that won't happen. I'll eat crow when all spellings become accepted, and I'll cough up the five dollars. I don't expect to have to do that, though. Juppiter 22:38, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Everyone always cites the "-ize" vs. "-ise" thing, but the total problem is far more complicated than that obvious example. It's also much more complicated than American vs. British. This is not a Gordian knot we can hope to cut. — Jeff Q (talk) 01:49, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  5. George Bernard Pshaw. --jpgordon∇∆∇∆ 00:51, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  6. Why don't we create our language that is specific to Wikipedia while we're at it! LOL Jaberwocky6669 01:04, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
    • Delete - non-notable conlang. -- Cyrius| 01:04, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
      That was quick... - Omegatron
      Us evil vicious deletionists are like that. -- Cyrius| 05:59, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  7. This comes up every few months, and I'm sick of it. -- Cyrius| 01:04, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  8. Standardized spelling is a never-ending debate, with many points that can't be expected to fit into a page like this. Unless the U.S. nukes the rest of the English-speaking world, standardizing on American spellings just ain't gonna happen. I would suggest that the initiators of this page read Wikipedia:Manual of Style and its voluminous talk page archives (when they have a few spare weeks). Also please take note of its article-title capitalization policy. ☺ — Jeff Q (an American) 01:06, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  9. People won't agree or be agreeable, unenforcable, impractical, can we put this to rest? Current system is quite fair. Besides, it makes perfect sense for Tony Blair's article to use British spellings. Meelar (talk) 01:09, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
    Uh, it does? Tell me how that doesn't count as regional bias, a BIG no-no on Wikipedia. Juppiter 03:17, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Wikipedia:Manual of Style and its talk pages describe how regional style usage is accepted in specific situations when there is no reasonable compromise on a single standard. One must really read this material to learn the existing state of Wikipedia style before one can hope to successfully argue for changes. — Jeff Q (talk) 06:37, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    How about the Labour party? Shall we now call them the "Labor party"? r3m0t talk 11:33, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
  10. See also Guerilla non-eEnglish spelling and grammar campaign. --cesarb 01:38, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  11. Oppose (for all the reasons above :) Oleg Alexandrov 01:43, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  12. Oppose. The fact of the matter is that both styles are correct --Alterego 02:11, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
    That's true, and nobody's saying which can be used in daily life. But on Wikipedia, it would be so much better to just sacrifice ourselves and our spellings of preference for the sake of the encyclopedia. Obviously I'm the only one who cares about the encyclopedia though. Juppiter 03:14, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    no, you're just egocentric. --Alterego 03:17, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
    Don't get personal, now. I find British spellings a little annoying, but I don't hate them (nor do I hate the British people.) I'm just looking out for the encyclopedia's interests. Is that so wrong? Juppiter 03:24, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  13. I support the status quo of including both styles of spelling in Wikipedia. — J3ff 02:24, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  14. Oppose. Clearly, British English is the international standard, but I do understand that people from the United States of America ("Americans" might not be the appropriate word here as other residents of the continents of North and South America may reasonably consider themselves to be Americans) prefer their own spellings. I suggest that Juppiter feel free to fork his or her own copy of Wikipedia and change the spelling to a consistently US style. Similarly, anyone who feels strongly enough about using British English can also fork a copy. The rest of us—who I suggest will be almost everyone—will continue to muddle along with a mixture.-gadfium 02:29, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Wikipedia is not our own personal plaything. Don't we want to be an authority? I'm the only one acting like it! Juppiter 03:12, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Declaring that one is the only person taking an issue seriously, or that one has the definitive "right" attitude, will not gain one much of a respectful audience on Wikipedia. This is a hotly debated topic, in which literally hundreds of serious-minded editors, many with professional writing and publishing experience, have contributed megabytes of reasoned discourse about all sides of this and related issues. One cannot hope to overturn such history with a simple vote article. Don't take the occasionally whimsical or dismissive responses as an indication of lack of seriousness. It's more likely a reaction to a issue raised by someone who doesn't appear to have familiarized themselves with the history of the debate. — Jeff Q (talk) 03:27, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    You'd get more respect if you argued for using British/Commonwealth English because that's more international, even though you yourself use American English. As it is, you are arguing that everyone should adopt your spelling. That's self-interest. You also should be aware that saying "Obviously I'm the only one who cares about the encyclopedia" (as you did in a comment several votes above this one) isn't going to win you any converts. Some of us have been here a long time, and have many thousands of edits to prove our commitment to the encyclopedia. You have 268 edits.-gadfium 03:33, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    So it's a "Let's not listen to the Catholic with 268 edits" thing. I didn't realize this was a country club, I thought it was a serious project. Pardon me, I will not speak from now on. But the proletarians of the world WILL unite and when we do, Wikipedia will be ours.Juppiter 03:44, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    What? -- Cyrius| 04:03, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Gadfium, perhaps we should start calling ourselves 'mericans to distinguish from the rest? :-)
    Juppiter, Wikipedia is not your own personal plaything. - Omegatron 03:45, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
    I have heard the term 'merkin used, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was considered offensive, so I wouldn't use it myself.-gadfium 04:58, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    To coin a phrase, offense is in the ear of the beholder. — Jeff Q (a Yank) 06:31, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    There's six billion people in the world. You can't do anything without offending someone, somewhere. - Omegatron (also a yank) 16:30, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
  15. Oppose. Is this a joke? I can't take this guy seriously. — Trilobite (Talk) 04:39, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Sorry.... I'll wait until I have 1000 edits and am an accepted part of the Wikipedia nobility before speaking again ...... Juppiter 05:58, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Really it has nothing to do with "Wikipedia nobility" or how many edits you've made, it has to do with making a silly proposal. It sounds like a joke. How about this proposal?
    This site currently uses both American Spellings and Commonwealth British Spellings. I feel the British spellings should be added to the Wikipedia Style Guide and all American Spellings should be changed over. Imagine all the schoolchildren who are using Wikipedia in the classroom and learning how to spell incorrectly (not that -ors, -izes, and -ns aren't correct in America.) If we want to be taken seriously, we need standards!
    That's just your idea with the words changed round. It is equally ridiculous. The status quo is actually pretty good in this area. You seem to have this idea that American English is somehow "proper English", and the other kind is some kind of obscure mutant version. The other kind is also considerably more complicated than you seem to think. Spelling doesn't just vary between the USA and UK (though you seem to be having trouble understanding the difference between the UK and England), it varies between Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well. I would have no more right to change the article on Seattle to reflect my orthography of the English language than you would to do the same thing to the article on Birmingham. As I said, the status quo is fine. If I write an article on an American topic I make an effort to put it in American English, even though this is not how I usually write. I bet you don't extend this courtesy. I dismissed you as a joke because you seemed like a kind of stereotypical American redneck that doesn't actually exist in the real world. All this talk of children learning to spell incorrectly, as if Wikipedia is written specifically for American children. I am pleased to note that plenty of American Wikipedians disagree with your proposal. It is misguided and argued from a position of ignorance. — Trilobite (Talk) 06:21, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  16. Oppose. I write only Commonwealth English, period. And after all, BBC and Encyclopædia Britannica use it, a good path to follow. :-) -- Sunny256 06:10, 2005 Mar 27 (UTC)
    A subtle joke, but a fair one! jguk 10:29, 8 May 2005 (UTC)
  17. This is pretty close to trolling. Rhobite 08:02, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
  18. Damn, I thought this was a joke. Look at "Encyclopædia Britannica" - that's published by the University of Chicago, and uses Commonwealth English. - Mark 09:03, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  19. Oppose. American spelling is a minority; the whole Commonwealth uses regular spellign, as do most foreign speakers. Also, since American English is most archaic, it will be so much that we won't have to convert into regular English when they finally decide to follow evolution ! :) Rama 09:09, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    The whole Commonwealth? Have you checked the Globe and Mail, which is a newspaper in Toronto, Canada? Last time I looked, Canada was part of the Commonwealth. RickK 09:22, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
  20. Oppose, although I'm having doubts that I exist, not being an American and and all that. I'm mythical. Probably best to ignore this vote. — Matt Crypto 09:18, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  21. Oppose. An American who thinks that British and American spellings should stand side by side in Wikipedia (though not in the same article). RickK 09:22, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
  22. This is ridiculous. The simple fact that the author of this page doesn't specify which classrooms will be learning the "wrong" spelling shows his bias. r3m0t talk 11:33, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)
  23. Oppose. My simple mind doesn't see a problem with a mixture of spellings. Firstly, it can't be bad for a child to see the various US/English spellings (all part of their education). Secondly, the actual number of differently spelt words is tiny compared with the number of words in the childs vocabulary so they'll be seen infrequently. So whats the problem, I cant see one! - Adrian Pingstone 15:18, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  24. Oppose. I remember learning about non-standardised spellings in grade school, and it was a useful lesson. As long as the spelling is consistent within an article, I think we're fine; it ain't broke. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of spelling reformers." Emerson, err, Antandrus. 15:29, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  25. Oppose and block the proposer. --Jirate 19:40, 2005 Mar 27 (UTC)
    For disagreeing with you? Are you Czar of Wikipedia? Thankfully, no, Irate. Juppiter 17:23, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    No for complete lack of judgment/--Jirate 19:40, 2005 Mar 27 (UTC)
  26. Go fork at us:Main Page. And we have a Countering Systematic Bias project. If this had passed, I would have left Wikipedia. Oppose in the strongest possible terms. Smoddy (tgeck) 17:15, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  27. Strongly oppose. At first I thought that this proposal must be a joke, but then I realised that there was still a few days to go until 1st April!. The present system works very well. JeremyA 17:39, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  28. Let's see. The US uses one spelling, whereas the rest of the English speaking world uses the other spelling. No wonder someone wants to move this - nowhere important uses the US spelling! Suggest this idea gets moved where it belongs - to BJAODN. Grutness|hello? Grutness.jpg 02:17, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  29. Oppose. Get real. ··gracefool | 02:49, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  30. Super major oppose. AlbinoMonkey (Talk) 07:47, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  31. Oppose. British schoolchildren will have the same problems learning "wrong" spelling if it's standardized to American English. It's preposterous to assume American kids take precedence over anyone else, which basically is what you do if you standardize to American English. Mgm|(talk) 09:33, Mar 29, 2005 (UTC)
  32. Ugh. violet/riga (t) 17:10, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  33. Oppose (but this is very probably a troll). David.Monniaux 12:08, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  34. Oppose. Il est bien évident qu'il faudrait parler français plutôt qu'une quelconque de ces autres langues barbares. Sam Hocevar 12:34, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Le français de la France ou le français québécois? ;) — Ливай | 12:52, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  35. Oppose. Perhaps at some point in the future there will be an option on the preferences page to choose your style of English and the words will be converted automatically for you if they're not marked as names (e.g. Labour Party and World Trade Center would remain unchanged, but not World Trade Organization/-isation). At this point, however, we'd be better off with some sort of compromise because you're going to anger too many people if you standardize on one spelling or another. — Ливай | 12:52, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    Now this I think merits discussion. I have a question; how is the Chinese wikipedia managed? I know it has separate entries for both traditional and simplified spellings under the same domain, but how do they work it out? Juppiter 23:04, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  36. No, no, no…do I make myself sufficiently clear or do I have to raise my voice? --Phil | Talk 15:37, Mar 29, 2005 (UTC)
  37. Oppose, this is just a silly idea. JYolkowski 02:54, 30 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  38. Oppose. I'm an American who happens to use both British and American spellings interchangeably. I agree with posts both in this section and in the Moot section: A) Even if we did try to standardise/ize spelling on Wikipedia, would the main proponent of this idea volunteer to go through every page and change the spelling? and B) It would have to be a never-ending process, because I highly doubt that every new article would be written in standardized/ised spelling. I think, however, that we should create a general guideline: If the subject is about British things, or another country that uses British spellings, write it in "British English". If it's about an American subject, write it in "American English". For example, Harry Potter and Tony Blair would be written in British, while George W. Bush and Baseball would be written in American. Hermione1980 01:14, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  39. Oppose. Hermione1980's suggestion is already unofficial Wikipedia policy, with the addition that articles on topics not generally associated with one country more than another should retain the spelling of the original editor. In my experience, the majority of such region-neutral articles are written with Commonwealth spelling, probably because in addition to editors from Commonwealth countries and Ireland, many American editors use Commonwealth spelling (sometimes incorrectly) because they think it looks cool. --[[User:Angr|Angr (comhrá)]] 12:08, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  40. Oppose The Manual of Style states using a country's dialect of English for articles related to that country, and I prefer that over "standardization." An article on the United States using British English would be an eyesore, and I doubt Britons would be happy to have an article on the UK written in American English. Not to mention that this whole "standardization" crap is a bit discriminatory to people who don't speak or write using the "standard" dialect. --/ɛvɪs/ 19:54, Apr 1, 2005 (UTC)
  41. Oppose. No good reason for doing that. Lysy 07:40, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  42. Oppose. The way that wikipedia treats this issue at the moment is sensible, sensitive, even-handed, and above all internationalist. We gain far more credibility from our current way of doing things than we would from any artificial 'standards' favouring one form over another, especially one which imposed American English on the rest of the English-speaking world. I am sorry the proposer feels maligned and badly treated, but this was a badly thought out proposal. Mattley 12:23, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  43. And don't forget Americanisms like "transportation", "burglarization" and "aluminum" which replace perfectly good words like transport, burglary and aluminium. Stick the lot up your arse (not donkey) and use proper fucking spellings. Dunc| 15:14, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)
    Burglary is the only acceptable usage I know of in en-US. It's the burgle/burglarize distinction you're thinking of. Juppiter 03:06, 7 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  44. Ilγαηερ (Tαlκ) 03:47, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC) While I am from the US, I think the old rule should apply (especially for articles dealing w/ British subjects!)
  45. Strong Oppose - unless it is to use correct British spellings. Brookie 15:47, 7 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  46. No... just, no. JuntungWu 09:03, 10 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  47. No way Dan100 17:11, Apr 10, 2005 (UTC)
  48. No... And, actually, outside of any other context or argument, international speakers of English use Commonwealth spellings, yes? I can't help thinking the most neutral point of view on this is not to be standardised on this issue, although I also can't help thinking it would make more sense to promote the Commonwealth spellings... This is English-language, not American-language, and there's a big difference there. --Kobayashihikaru 01:21, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  49. This proposal is quite ridiculous. The argument that there are more American English speakers is flawed, as there would be many more British/Commonwealth/International English speakers if one counted the Commonwealth. Moreover, so what if the servers are in Florida? Shall we use Floridian dialect now? Or perhaps, the dialect of Pinellas County would be more satisfactory? Oppose -- Emsworth 22:54, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)
  50. No - and as WP:POINT makes clear - we accept inconsistency in favour of harmony, jguk 10:29, 8 May 2005 (UTC)
  51. Oppoze. JFW | T@lk 01:22, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  52. Oppouse. Instruction creep, unenforceable, and Shakespeare would turn in his grave. Radiant_>|< 13:40, Jun 13, 2005 (UTC)


  1. Vote withdrawn. Please do not add it back again. Juppiter 17:16, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
  1. Abstain. If we were going to standardize on anything then it should be Webster as his spelling is more logical. As British I, for one, don't see it as American. Realistically tho the current compromise whereby when there are variant spellings whichever is first should stay is the only workable one. Dejvid 14:28, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)


  • I think the point is moot. Nobody is going to go over half a million articles changing the spelling. There isn't much good in pissing off a large part of the community by trying to enforce a policy that only applies to new edits and, perhaps, to a team of zealots, busy with the impossible task of fixing what's already been written.
If this were the beginning, I'd have voted Yes, wholeheartedly. Attempts to maintain variant dialects of the American language serve no purpose. The British had their shot at world domination, and while on top, English was English. Now it's American. Perhaps next century (or sooner!) we'll all be reading and writing Chinese. Is this right? Is this just? Not at all; but it's the way of the world. The more that all people, everywhere, share a single language, the greater our mutual understanding. I don't really care what that language is, but right now, it is American.
But I still say that, here on WP, the point is moot. — Xiong (talk) 02:24, 2005 Mar 27 (UTC)
  • I also agree that the point is moot. I am looking at Special:Statistics as I write this and I see that, as of now, there are currently 511153 articles, 1439566 total pages, and 222559 registered users here... and the numbers grow every second. How is anyone going to enforce changing all of these pages? How is anyone going to enforce the policy for new edits? I just do not see it happening. Zzyzx11 06:56, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Democracy in publishing[edit]

I just finished posting a lengthy note on Juppiter's talk page about this issue, and I thought it might be worth posting here, too…

Here's another way to look at this issue. I thought I might suggest that, because the content of Wikipedia is freely available for anyone to copy and modify for their own encyclopedia (as long as appropriate credit is given), one could create an "Americopedia" that would be Wikipedia with rigidly enforced spelling and other style rules based on a single authoritative source, avoiding most of the typically cited practical problems. The glaring problem with this is how to correct hundreds of millions of misspellings in half a million articles, especially since no robot parser can be sure to catch every instance that should be corrected. (One problem would be intentional alternative spellings used in examples, but that's only the most obvious one, perhaps.) It would have to be done on an ongoing basis as well, with frequent refreshes from the error-plagued source.

Clearly, one would need many eyeballs (and keyboards) on such a project to make it effective. But the more people one added to the project, the more disagreement one would get on what the best authoritative source is. Should it be Webster's, American Heritage, or another respected source? Which edition? Should it perhaps be an online version, more likely to keep up with the times? Should one create a melded American standard (which is the Wikipedia way, without the "American" part), and if so, how to decide what to include? One would essentially replicate the angry debates from Wikipedia in miniature — though it wouldn't seem "miniature" to the people caught up in it!

Wikipedia's utility and robustness come from the vast number of contributors who participate, but in such a large population of free thinkers (in the generic sense, not the ideological one), with such varying backgrounds, one cannot hope to achieve consensus on many controversial issues, and any such consensus will frequently be revisited and revised. U.S. political and legal history provides innumerable examples of this principle.

It comes down to this: when you have a hundred thousand decision makers, no decision can be ideal. This is a basic principle of democracy. It's one of the things that makes it so ugly, and yet so effective, because people can grudgingly accept that compromise is necessary if they believe they can have an impact on the decision-making process. Wikipedia is essentially an experiment in real-time, world-wide democracy in publishing, with all the warts and blemishes that inevitably accompany the heady power of mass involvement.

"… it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." — Winston Churchill

Okay, I'll get down from my soapbox now. ☺ — Jeff Q (talk) 02:36, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Well said. Maurreen 19:36, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Has anybody else noticed the irony of having this article's title using British spelling? Or is there some significance to that? (American spelling is standardize.) RickK 09:24, Mar 27, 2005 (UTC)

Yeah, someone decided to move it. --Carnildo 10:14, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
For those who come to this discussion belatedly, this article title was originally Wikipedia:Standardize Spellings. Certain parties who shall remain nameless (except in redirect page histories) decided to have some meta-fun by changing this article's title to use a British spelling, Wikipedia:Standardise Spellings, making the creator look especially foolish. Two more changes have resulted the current title, Wikipedia:Standardize spellings. I would ask that we stop this particular game here, so that the article title fits the purpose, however ill-considered one might believe it to be.
It's understandable why many people would be seriously upset about the strident U.S.-centric attitude of the proposal, the blatant ad hominem attacks on the conscientiousness of the Wikipedia community (to which level some of us sunk in response), and the raising of irrelevancies (e.g., anti-Catholicism — I still don't get where that came from). But what kind of writers are we if we resort to dirty tricks to undermine an opponent's argument? Don't we trust our own ability to make cogent rebuttals? And what ever happened to WikiLove? To borrow a phrase from the Christian Bible (Matthew 5:39) on this Easter Sunday, let's turn the other cheek, and stick to logical arguments. — Jeff Q (talk) 18:53, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I wouldn't worry about it: I suspect such games are simply good-natured jesting by those who can't resist a little irony, and nothing more sinister...— Matt Crypto 19:43, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I'm fairly sure that the page move was intended to be good-natured, but it raises the acrimony significantly. There are many Wikipedians who do not feel comfortable with moving pages, especially given the many things that can go wrong with the process. (I've moved perhaps 30 or 40 in my Wiki career, and I still approach it with great caution.) Retitling the article not only mocked the article creator, but made it much less likely they could respond appropriately or fix the damage. It gave significant weight to the argument of elitism, as experienced editors are part of an informal elite, regardless of how unmalicious the intent is. Taking advantage of this greater experience to disarm one's opponent is like pulling a gun on a swordfighter. It was very amusing to see Indiana Jones do it in Raiders, but it didn't advance the cause of rational debate; in fact, it set it back considerably and left us open to ad hominem attacks. — Jeff Q (talk) 20:17, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Talking of irony…said gun-pulling incident occurred because Harrison Ford had developed a galloping case of dysentery and persuaded Stephen Spielberg that spending 3 days shooting the scene as scripted would result in wardrobe malfunctions of the embarrassing kind (see here if you don't believe me). My reaction to this proposal was not so violent but not entirely dissimilar. See you in the funny pages. HTH HAND. --Phil | Talk 15:24, Mar 29, 2005 (UTC)
The trouble is that it was difficult to take this as a serious proposal. If someone had put forward a well thought-out argument that showed awareness of the issues involved, the debates that had gone on in the past, and the feelings of the community, I think lots of us would have been prepared to consider whatever arguments were being put forward and respond sensibly. Making statements like "If we want to be taken seriously, we need standards!" was bound to prompt people to dismiss the idea rather than give it serious consideration. It's unfortunate that the proposer interpreted this as elitism. They should realise that it's not because they're a relatively new user that this got the reception it did, but the arrogance and ignorance they displayed in making the proposal. At least now if someone else comes along and says something like: "why does Wikipedia use all these foreign spellings? Let's standard(ize/ise) them," we can just refer them to this page. — Trilobite (Talk) 05:47, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I had no problem with people disagreeing with me. But you can't possibly tell me that "Some of us have been here a long time, and have many thousands of edits to prove our commitment to the encyclopedia. You have 268 edits." is not an elitist comment. Juppiter 20:55, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
On the topic of elitism and being taken seriously, have you apologised yet for the "imagine all the schoolchildren who are using Wikipedia in the classroom and learning how to spell incorrectly" — did it never cross your mind that people for whom British spelling is correct would find this ridiculous and offensive? Your lack of credibility has nothing to do with your newness to the project and everything to do with the fact your behaviour conforms to a widespread stereotype of the American mindset. — Matt Crypto 21:22, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I realize that there would then be British schoolchildren seeing the wrong spellings, but if it were standardized, then their teachers would be able to simply say, "It's an American website." The American spellings in England are surely much more commonly seen than the British spellings in the United States, due to the American domination of the internet. I do apologize for giving Americans priority, but frankly more (by a lot) native English speakers are Americans. Juppiter 03:12, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Do you have any source for the "American domination of the internet" ? Because as far as I know, the WWW, which is the revelant part of the Internet, originates one of the greated bastions of Europe and internationalism, the CERN [1] (and they do use the "wrong" spelling there, oh yes indeed, do they not?)...
I still don't know whether this whole page is nog a parody ot not; but in case it would not, I would like to friendly and kinfly advise you not to believe everything that you think you have heard on your local news channel, wander around, see the world, meet people, and rethink the place of the United States of America in the this vaste universe. You'll see that the world is better when it is bigger, there is to much to explore. Rama 05:57, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
That was a response to your comment "Obviously I'm the only one who cares about the encyclopedia". How was it elitist in that context? There are many ways to measure how much one cares, but number of edits, number of new articles, number of featured articles, and number of pages reviewed as part of RC patrol might be some of them. It wouldn't be easy to get statistics on all of these. Trying to change spelling to that used by a minority of English speakers isn't one of the higher-ranking criteria, for me. Please accept that your comment was hyperbole, and move on.-gadfium 22:48, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I admit that it was hyperbole, but the idea I was trying to express was that in initiating this discussion, I was not thinking of English vs. American and which is better—I was thinking that having one is more professional and picking the one more used by native speakers made more sense to me. Anyway, your comment seemed to go out of its way to label me a newbie. Juppiter 03:12, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Elitism would be if people were using their number of edits as a metric for how seriously their opinion should be taken on this proposal. This is not the case. Rather, your suggestion that you're "the only one who cares about this encyclopedia" was absurd, and your number of edits only emphasises that absurdity. Imagine if you'd just started work somewhere, and in your first week you complained loudly about the way things were done, and then said "am I the only one who cares about this company?" You might wish to paint yourself as a victim of an insular and hostile community, but don't deceive yourself: the reality is simply that your comments have been ill-judged and antagonistic, and they come across as being very arrogant. — Matt Crypto 12:34, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I think that this is a joke from the beginning and that we've been had... (more or less) :p Rama 22:45, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I'm starting to wonder if it wasn't a joke but is trolling. However, it does provide a useful page which we can point others to when they raise similar ideas.-gadfium 22:48, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)
It was an honest proposal. I knew there'd be controversy, and frankly I underestimated it. I should have been more thoughtful before posting. Juppiter 03:13, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Symptomatic problem[edit]

Several people above have complained that this sort of proposal crops up every other month. Remember, this is usually symptomatic of a problem in the information that we present. I would guess that User:Juppiter looked around the various FAQs and manuals of style relating to spellings, so perhaps there isn't enough information on why spellings are handled in the current ad hoc fashion. Perhaps we need a specifc FAQ for 'Shouldn't we standarize on American spellings'. -- Solipsist 11:19, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

So as not to discriminate, should we also have a specific FAQ for 'Shouldn't we standarise on British spellings', 'Shouldn't we standarise on Canadian spellings', 'Shouldn't we standarise on New-Zealand spellings', etc., since obviously, if the lack of specific FAQ explains the recurrence of this question, we would be bound to have it asked by users from other countries ? Rama 12:05, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Its not really a question of discrimination — those other questions aren't so frequently asked. -- Solipsist 14:12, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Why not just "Why don't you standard-ise/-ize on a particular style of spelling?" r3m0t talk 12:50, Apr 3, 2005 (UTC)
"those other questions aren't so frequently asked." yes, but why ? Rama 13:24, 3 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Who knows, but it is beside the point. I'm really not bothered about any specific wording in any improved FAQ. The point is that I really don't think User:Juppiter was trolling - the question was most likely asked in good faith. So we can either go through the same poll and argument every couple of months, or someone can try to figure out how to improve the FAQ and/or MoS such that the question is answered more clearly before it is asked. -- Solipsist 16:52, 5 Apr 2005 (UTC)