I'm in the U.S. and have always written in American English. I will be submitting a paper to a U.K. journal for the first time. To conform to British spelling, I've changed the Microsoft Word dictionary to U.K. English, which has caught most of the obvious differences . Even so, I'm worried that it will miss some of the differences listed here and here. Is this even worth worrying about? Will being lazier about spelling hurt the chances for my paper's acceptance?

  • It depends on the journal. For what it's worth, I'm not a native English speaker, but I prefer the British spelling and have never had a problem publishing a paper that way. Although one of them got rewritten by the editorial staff using US spelling ;-) – Anthony Labarre Mar 27 '12 at 7:24
up vote 12 down vote accepted

The answer depends very much on the journal. Some expect UK spellings; others will permit either American or British spellings. You should check with the journal in question.

Of course, the other option that you have is the following. Since you know what the major differences between the two sets of spellings are, and you have a sense of which one's won't be caught by your spell checker, you could always do a final search-and-replace after you've completed work on the paper to make sure you've switched everything over. (Or at least, everything you know should be switched over.)

That should satisfy most journals, and as shan23 said, I don't think a journal will reject your paper for writing "meters" instead of "metres"; the most you'll get is a referee report telling you to switch spellings.

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    Almost no referees will tell you to change spellings. The spelling issue comes under editorial purview. What you may get is a request from the copyeditors to change the spelling to conform to journal standards. Some will even change them for you in proof and just ask you to approve them. – Willie Wong Feb 22 '12 at 11:59
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    @WillieWong: I do make comments on spelling and grammar issues, if they appear to be significant enough to affect the quality of the paper, or runs significantly afoul of the journal guidelines. It's not a rejection criteria unless it's so atrocious that I spend more time trying to figure out what they're trying to say than evaluating the quality of the comments they make. – aeismail Feb 22 '12 at 12:17
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    I also do comment on clearly incorrect spelling. But would you actually comment on 'color' versus 'colour', 'practice' versus 'practise', or 'connexion' versus 'connection'? For a fairly fluent English speaker, none of those should make it any harder to figure out what the author is saying. (Also, I only read the author guidelines for information on house styles when I am preparing a manuscript. I would never bother checking what the house styles are when refereeing, unless specifically asked to do so.) – Willie Wong Feb 22 '12 at 12:33
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    I would make a catch-all comment: "Please use British (American) spellings," and cite an example or two. – aeismail Feb 22 '12 at 13:37
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    fair enough. You are the counterexample to my anecdotal evidence then :-). – Willie Wong Feb 22 '12 at 13:40

A lot of US spellings have come to become accepted internationally - at best, some of the reviewers might point out the words which they don't feel are spelled correctly in their review. But, I strongly believe it would not affect the chances for your paper's acceptance in the least - its the content/idea that matters most in journals.

Read your journal's guide for authors. That will usually tell you.

Anything that makes the paper look unlike the papers in recent issues, will hinder acceptance. It may be blatant, it may be subtle, but it's there. Dialect of English is one of those things that may or may not matter. Skim through three or four recent issues: are there a mix of US English and UK English articles in there?

That's only a small part of the consistency-checking you should be doing before submission. Indeed, it's part of the checks you should be doing before you sit down to write. Along with: what sort of breakdown of sections do your target journal's papers have, typically? Do article titles include a colon (always, usually, rarely, never)? How many paragraphs per section, words per section, how any words in the title, and so on.

Editors are usually very very busy. Anything you can do to make their life easier, will help your article get published.

As long as you get your meaning across efficiently, it won't matter.

We 'Brits' (as the previous contributor so brashly refers to us) are a cosmopolitan lot and we are well used to reading materials in US spelling.

Why do people use the word 'Brit' anyway? It's derogatory and offensive.

Practice between publishers (and indeed, between individual journals put out by the same publisher) would be different. It is best to consult the Author Guidlines for the journal you will be submitting to. Occasionally there will also be certain idiosyncrasies that do not agree with the dictionary included in Microsoft Word.

For example, take a look at the publishing guidelines for Institute of Physics which is based in London. It stipulates that

  • ize endings should be used instead of ise endings. (I know a lot of spell checking software will tell you that 'colourise' is perfectly fine British English, so be careful there!)
  • British spelling is compulsory ... with the exception of a list of journals where both American and British spellings may be used. (So if you submit to one of the journals in the list of exceptions, you should just aim to be internally consistent with your choice of spelling.)

For the most part: if there is anything specifically listed in the author guidelines, make sure to follow them. For everything else, especially since "British English" is a bit of a moving target (as evidenced by the second link you provided in the question), that's what copy-editors are for. (And unless you have a very good reason, don't fight with them. House style almost always trump your personal preferences.)

It will matter. The brits will think you are misspelling if you don’t do it their way.

I use this to help me get it right. I would look at the “don’ts section”. I think it applies. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/lawre035/SocSci/Writing%20Journal%20Entries.pdf

Then again you can just browse through the many online dictionaries. My favorite one is thefreedictionary. It has so many ways to choose. http://cognitiveanomalies.com/my-quest-for-the-best-online-dictionary/ Good luck

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