In a recent (otherwise quite solid) edit of “Will changing an artifact sword to another weapon type impact game balance much?”, @okeefe changed the British spelling “artefact” to the American spelling “artifact.”

Searching our meta, I see no rule regarding whether a particular spelling is preferred, or whether someone editing a question anyway can or should change from one spelling to another.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that okeefe's edit was actually reverting the Australian spelling introduced in a previous title edit so that it once again matches the spelling "artifact" in the body text. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 2:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Huh, missed that. OK then, that explains that case but nevertheless the question probably deserves getting addressed officially in a searchable form. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 4:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ In this instance, tired brian was tired. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 7:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ When I edited it, it had the British spelling in the title and the American spelling in the question. That was one reason why I edited it. Also, I assumed if someone had a problem with it, it would be reverted. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 13:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a tea-sipping British gentleman myself, I would prefer to use the spelling I've learned from old blighty. I don't think anyone will misunderstand me if there's an extra U in words like 'armour'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Macona
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ As an FYI when challenged SE convention is to default to American English. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 14:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton Yeah, looking at that edit I don't see a deliberate attempt to change it; you were rewriting the title fresh and the spelling came out of your fingers as it normally would. No fault there; I've done it too, contrary to my personal policy. But thank you (and okeefe) for accidentally bringing up the issue. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know most users of most SE sites are fond of TV Tropes (or failing that, fans of xkcd, which by proxy usually makes them at least aware of the former), and I personally agree with their policy of "we won't melt your PC if you do, but in general leave regional grammar as-is". I believe the accepted answer would agree with this for the most part. \$\endgroup\$
    – JessLovely
    Commented Jan 2, 2017 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, D&D 5e was written in American English, as were its predecessors. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 22:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The only convention that SE sets as policy relates to tagging. In general, we say that tags should follow American English when using standard language and everything else should follow the preference of the post's author. In cases where you're using official terminology, I recommend using the official spelling, so if you're referring to the "RPG Help Center", it shouldn't be spelled "Centre" as that may cause confusion. meta.stackexchange.com/a/23873/284336 \$\endgroup\$
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Catija I believe that’s consistent with what the answers here are saying: use author’s preference, except when specific terminology is being referred to—if a game uses “armour,” that should be used even if the rest of the text is in American English, and since SE uses “Help Center,” that should be used even if the rest of the text is in British English. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yep. My main goal was to link to the actual "official" policy, particularly since there's another comment here claiming our policy is AmE by default. If someone wants to incorporate that into their answer, cool. If not, it's at least accessible. Though I'm not sure it's necessary for a question and answer to match. \$\endgroup\$
    – Catija
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 13:54

6 Answers 6


Some common reasons to edit are:

  • to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it
  • to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages
  • to add related resources or hyperlinks

Try to make the post substantively better when you edit, not just change a single character. Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged.

(source; emphasis mine.)

We aren't language experts.

Correct use of English spelling and grammar to the best of your ability. (source)

Although one of SE's meta goals is to improve communication skills, RPG.SE citizens are here for RPG expertise, not linguistic expertise. We want citizens to feel free to edit away typos (if they're major, or as part of a more significant edit--as described in the help section), and if we start coming on down people for fixing what they think are typos but turn out to be legitimate dialectic variants, we'll lose editors.

I haven't seen any pattern of behavior to indicate that anything more sinister is going on than good faith attempts to adhere to correct English spelling and grammar, so I don't think a more strict policy needs to be enacted.

There is no "correct use of English spelling and grammar" unless we choose a style manual.

Every publisher has a stylebook, and they don't agree. Even in something like "American English," choices about the Oxford (serial) comma, whether to use "further" and "farther" or just "further," and whether to hyphenate "African American," create wide divides in style and grammar. Taken to its logical conclusion, we can't rule any style choice as right or wrong unless we adopt a specific style manual for the whole site.

That seems excessive and needless, but...

It's probably good to standardize usage within a single post.

The edit in question was actually reverting a spelling change from a previous edit: the original post used "artifact," and the body text still did, but the title had been edited by an Australian who used his spelling "artefact." Okeefe reverted the spelling so it would be consistent throughout the post.

This seems like a reasonable rule of thumb.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Consistency within a post is definitely required. Not necessarily between question and answer(s) though. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I actually assumed it was good faith, but didn’t feel that assuming that he was unaware of the alternate spelling was particularly more respectful. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 4:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Correct use of English spelling and grammar to the best of your ability." means that other editors coming along later and seeing the unnecessary edit made in error should revert the edit to the correct, needlessly changed spelling. There needn't be anything sinister either, for there to be a problem – I've had my Canadian spellings "helpfully fixed" before, and it drives me up the wall. It is innocent, but very unwelcoming to the editee. So in this case, okeefe's edit was the correct one, IMNSHO. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 5:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ And then there is the Alumium/Aluminum cow... IUPAC vs. standard American English ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 13:53

You might be overthinking it. This might not be a case of which English is The Correct English.

D&D 4e has a thing called artifacts. I live in Australia, where we spell it "artefacts", but nevertheless, in the context of D&D 4e I will happily and consistently call them artifacts. They consistently call it that, and as far as I'm aware, they have no instances of calling them "artefacts".

It would probably be weird if some of the books called them "artefacts", just like it'd be weird if some of the books said "magick" instead of "magic." I see it as being a convention they have with a defined spelling, so I go with it.

We should probably ask okeefe though. Right?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is one of those things I run into a lot with "armo(u)r". When I'm using it as a technical term ("Armor Class") I'll generally leave the book spelling intact, but when using it as an English word ("is she wearing armour?") I'll spell it in my own convention. In my view, most uses of "artifact" in 4e are of the second kind. So, "Is she wearing artefact armour? What's its Armor Class?" ;) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I might not go to the extent of editing it either. Apparently okeefe had other reasons for doing so! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 21:47

I follow the Wikipedia policy: for AmE, BrE, and CanE (&c) spelling variants, preserve the variant of the original and standardise to that, if necessary. If it's seems to be a mix of spellings from different countries but specific words are consistent, don't try to figure out why, and leave the spelling alone. Basically, when it doubt, don't touch the spelling.

This was deemed super-important at Wikipedia in order for it not to slowly transform from a worldwide project into an American-seeming project. I agree with this reasoning, and I think it applies to this site.

Speaking personally, as an English-speaker from a non-American-English country, you'd be surprised how unwelcoming a site that erases my correct spelling from the page feels. A site that enforces AmE spellings on my own text – even if only accidentally, due to editors not paying attention to the issue of spelling variants – is a site that doesn't want me to contribute. It's not rational, but there it is.

A consequence of following this policy would be that unnecessary corrections are to be reverted to the original spelling. This shows respect for the original author, and counteracts any demographic bias rooted in the ratio of site users. It takes little effort, does minimal damage to the site, and demonstrates a dedication to being non-partisan. This would be my preference for how we handle spelling here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This was the effect I was concerned that @okeefe may have accidentally caused. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 6:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1. I was matching the spelling of the original question. 2. You want to be using —, not –, for interrupting text. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe 1. And quite rightly. I thought you'd done the opposite at first, but the facts are otherwise and you did the right thing by my measure. :) 2. Hah, I've actually spent way too much time thinking about this. Either are acceptable absent a house style, with preference for em dash, and for a while I was using em dashes. Lacking proper hair/thin spaces though, it just doesn't look right, and the en dash looks more like the internet convention of using single or double hyphenminus. I've decided for now that the en-dash-plus-spaces fits in better here, despite my preference for the em dash. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I do not know of a context when en dash is correct for that, but I won't press the issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe Same article, in the lede, first bullet. Em dashes are definitely preferred for this use, but I've chosen a compromise. For now; I'm not entirely happy with it. (Also notice that our comments and names are separated by an en dash when it should be an em dash. The web is just a pile of typographic compromise. *shakes head sorrowfully*.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 16:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @okeefe I write technical manuals for a living and I've been reading some material. m-dash (without spaces) is often replaced by space+n-dash+space. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ And for the record, I used hair spaces and em dashes for a while, but due to the difficulty of producing that on all platforms I use, I've fallen back to "nearest best" of plain spaces around an em dash. Meh, can't have perfection, so good enough's good enough! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 19:07

While there are a lot of good points, I want to bring up ONE thing:

Keep Game Terms as they appear in the books!

There are a lot of games out there. Some are in AE, some BE, some CanE, some in Aussie slang. And a lot appear first as PDFs these days. People can easily quote from these, and what is more relevant, search in them. The Adobe search, however, is dumb: If you use spelling "Glamor" when searching in a book using "Glamour" for this ability, you get no hits. When searching for "maneouvre" when the D&D 5E uses "maneuver", you don't find the paragraphs. When searching for "Magic" in Ars Magica you are lucky as they use the term "Magick", of which magic is a substring...

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    \$\begingroup\$ (An issue that's also addressed, in a way, here.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 19:14

Personal feeling: the initial spelling in such cases should be left alone, even if you are already editing the question or answer for other reasons.

And even if we decide that we should standardize on a single spelling, seems to me that this would not be a large enough change on its own to justify making the edit in the first place, if you were not editing it anyway.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, except that I'm not sure if it's reasonable to expect citizens to recognize when a spelling is a leigitmate variant, vs when it's wrong. Editing for spelling (especially if it's part of a more significant edit) is encouraged if the spelling is wrong. Do we expect our citizens to know the difference between "artefact" and "artafact"? \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 2:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Agreed, and I suspected that was the case with okeefe, I just thought the issue should be addressed formally. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 4:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW We do have editors who know the difference though. Just like in any thing that needs taking care of around here, the few experts in that issue can take care of it. We don't expect citizens to know how to tag perfectly – we correct as necessary by retagging. We don't expect citizens to know every variant spelling and when to leave them alone – we correct as necessary by reverting the edit. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 9, 2013 at 5:37

As we are playing particular systems any terms that might have alternative spelling should first the same as the spelling used by that system. If it isn't referring to a specific term then leave as the author intended.

As for whether everyone should be aware of alternative spellings, well that's a hard one. I daresay most non-American English speakers are very aware of alternative spellings as they struggle through so many sites and programs that don't recognise the 'correct' spelling (such as recognise). If there were to be a policy then it should leave as the author intended except for those specific system terms, if it is edited then it is a simple matter to revert it once the actual situation is discovered. No harm, no foul.


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