Spelling Criteria for Websites and Blogs

A night time view of the spectacular Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, Russia

I'm sure it's no surprise when I say that English is not the native language of Russia, Cuba or Vietnam (where, incidentally the Vietnam War is referred to as the America War).

While folks speak English all around the world it’s most definitely not the first or native language of all countries in the world. The same fact is, quite obviously, true for French and Spanish.

It’s, therefore, difficult to determine the correct way to spell some words, particularly these days as our words and images exist, beyond borders, on the world wide web.

Thanks For All The Fish

Every now and again I get folks, from various parts of the world, correcting my spelling based upon what they’ve read on my website/blog. Given the sheer amount of content on that site, and the fact that most of it has been produced during the wee hours of the morning, it’s not surprising that mistakes will have been made.

For example, I often mix up the words my and by. They’re obviously quite different and don’t relate to each other. I can only assume I have some wires crossed in my brain, as I make the same mistake time and time again. It might also be a muscle memory thing that occurs during typing. I know not, but I’ve learned to look out for it whenever I proofread anything I’ve written for my site.

Living In Isolation

I’m an Aussie and, sadly, English is the only language I speak. I do love to listen to French and the Elvish middle earth languages. From a business point of view it would make sense to learn Chinese, by which I mean the mother tongue, which we in the West refer to as Mandarin.

Beware Your Bias For Localized Spelling

As the notion of correct spelling is, in part, based upon where you live it seems to me that I should be more concerned with what particular spelling is most appropriate compared to what one person or another may consider correct. And in determining what’s most appropriate I weigh the needs of my audience with those of the local population in the town or region where the photo was made more so than what’s generally considered correct in my own neck of the woods.

I can remember being extremely upset when told that I had to use the American spelling for the word Color when I began work at Kodak in 1990. After a time I got used to it and have continued to spell the word that same way. Why? Well, regardless of whether you choose US or Australian English as part of the installation process of applications such as Adobe Photoshop, you’ll find the word Color, rather than its alternative spelling Colour, becoming the default spelling of that word.

Given that I’m a teacher it makes sense to me, as a way of avoiding confusion, to use whatever spelling is used within the application in any notes or presentations I produce. I’m driven by accuracy, rather than what may or may not be considered correct in my own neck of the woods.

In Australia we tend to prefer the use of the letter s instead of z (which, incidentally, we pronounce zed not zee) where ever possible. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not it is.

Thinking Beyond Your Backyard

When faced with a choice I’II often go onto Google and search for clarification. And, more often than not, I’II opt for what ever option is in common use in the USA. It’s a bigger market and, therefore, an opportunity to connect with a larger audience. All I’m trying to do is to produce content appropriate to the needs of that market. The fact that I’m a middle aged Aussie male may well come through in what I post. That’s okay, as I want to be authentic. But I also want to reach folks, and being provincial is not the way to so.

Here’s another approach I sometimes take.

I recently had to determine whether to opt for Harbor or Harbour when describing a location I’d visited in Antarctica. Likewise I had to decided on either Savior or Saviour for the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. In each case I used Google Search to see what were the most commonly used search phrases for those locations. In the case of the Russian location this is what I found.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

  • 1,480,000 sites or posts used the spelling Saviour
  • 1,380,000 used the spelling Savior

Thankfully the first page of Google isn’t overly affected by this and seems to be displaying suggested sites, regardless of how the word is actually spelt in the website’s domain name.

Likewise Church of Savior on the Spilled Blood, another name for the same site, brings up 430,000 possible options on Google versus 344,000 with the spelling Saviour. Can you see that, in this case, Savior was the preferred spelling.

That's Not How Google Search Ranks Sites

And, not wanting to add to or stir the pot too much more, Google’s ranking of site’s can also be affected by the town/city and country in which he or she who undertakes the search lives. But I figure that, outside of Russia, with these particular search terms most of us are going to be seeing roughly the same information on Goggle.

I’m not sure how relevant this post will be to you. If you produce your own blog or website you may find it useful. If, on the other hand, you’re purely a consumer of content then, perhaps, you’ll be a little more forgiving when you come across words spelt differently than how you’d expect them to be spelt. Try to think about it from the author's point of view.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru