I was looking at the edits for a post and I noticed that someone changed "neighboring" to "neighbouring" in an edit. I've been avoiding edits like that on the assumption that people should be able to post in the variant that they want. I know that I would be annoyed if one of my posts was given British spellings. British (or Australian, etc.) spellers would presumably be annoyed to see spellings changed in their posts to the American version.

Of course, all this is complicated by the use of spell checkers, which tend to mark one or the other spelling as incorrect (neighbouring is marked incorrect as I look at it now).

Is there a site policy on this?


2 Answers 2


So long as it's consistent within a single post, it doesn't matter what style is used.

Assuming, of course, that it meets all other guidelines for politeness, legibility, and so forth.

There's no useful way to define a standard version of English for the site--even within, say, American English, we'd have to choose which style guide to adhere to. We cater to people all around the world, and so long as we're internally consistent and otherwise follow guidelines, it doesn't matter how many 'u's we put in our words, or whether quotation marks come before or after closing punctuation.

Anything more stringent than "understandable and internally consistent" will make the site unnecessarily unwelcoming to the experts who we already ask to jump through several hoops in order to participate in the Great Stack Experiment.

(Other Stack sites have had this discussion, and this is the general consensus that gets reached.)

However, we will get people who just plain don't know their style of English isn't a universal style. They make unnecessary edits in good faith, and while individual education can help with that, it's not an issue that will ever go away. We should be glad they're taking such an interest in the site's quality (as they think they're improving posts by removing actual mistakes in style/grammar/spelling) and deal with them graciously as we help them direct their efforts toward more productive site tasks.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm in the UK and this is the rule I go by - I write in GB English and would be upset if someone Americanized it... however I don't go around correcting the spelling of colour wherever I go. $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Nov 18, 2014 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ I've decent experience with what words have alternate spellings, yet I still find myself Googling to double check before editing numerous words to ensure I'm not "fixing" these types of differences when my spellcheck claims there is an error. $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2015 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Liath shouldn't that be color? Otherwise there is nothing to correct. $\endgroup$ Feb 7, 2016 at 10:02

I think the Stack Exchange system actually provides a bit of guidance in the matter. Consider the description of the no improvement whatsoever reason for rejecting an edit:

This edit does not make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability.

I would argue that only changing from one style of spelling to another, without any other improvements, falls into that category. While the edit might not make the post harder to read, in the general case such edits fairly clearly don't make them easier to read either. They might for some subset of people visiting the site, but far from necessarily all people visiting the site.

Now, things get a bit more difficult if such edits are made at the same time as fixing other, more immediate problems with the post. At that point, it pretty much comes down to a sort of judgment call; is the post, on the whole, better with the edits than without them?

Perhaps the most correct way to handle such a situation is to pick the improve edit option, and change the spelling back to the original poster's style while keeping the improvements, but if the post is substantial it might be that the person reviewing the edit might not have the time to do so. This would be the correct course of action if the edits, besides the particular flavor of English used, are substantial enough to stand on their own. If I am not completely mistaken, this will award the +2 reputation to the editor for the edit, it will show as accepted and be stored as a revision, and a separate revision will be created with the reviewer's edits.

Alternatively, if the edit is mostly such style changes and only one or a few things that actually improve the post, pick reject and edit and carry the good changes forward. That way the edit will be rejected, and the editor can become aware of the fact that edits that consist primarily of such style changes are undesired.

Either way, always keep in mind that we all start out as newcomers to the network, and try to explain why you take the action you do in the review, so that the person on the other end of the keyboard can learn from the experience.

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    $\begingroup$ In addition to what you said about it making it easier to read for one subset of the people, for another subset it will making it harder to read. So it kinda balances out $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Nov 17, 2014 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for explaining actions to newcomers. Not everyone will realise that the "typo" they are correcting is actually a regional spelling. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2014 at 11:36

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