I learnt English as my second language right from my school level and for the British colonial history of my country, my education was mostly in British English. In fact, during my school years, American spellings were somewhat frowned upon. However, recently I am writing a few academic papers for IEEE and some of my colleagues and reviewers seem to be very much against British expressions. Words like Colour (as compared to Color), Maximise (as compared to Maximize) etc. are being pointed out as inappropriate in an academic paper. Are all these just biased opinions or general trends in the publishing community?

  • The (American) IRE merged with the (American) IEE to form the IEEE. The headquarters are in New York. Roughly half of its members are American, the rest spread out over ~160 other countries. You can't fight City Hall. – anongoodnurse Feb 4 '14 at 3:44

Britain is still a real place. British English is still a live, evolving, form of English. British engineering, scientific and academic accomplishments of the last few decades might only include minor things like the world wide web, but do spare a thought for those who use similar dialects too. In international use, Oxford English is quite commonly used (British English, but with ‑ize and ‑ization). In general, use the dialect of the country you are working or publishing in, but even then unless you've a particular reason to avoid a given form, there's no need too. Besides, if you're really lucky you'll have something successful enough to have to re-edit because it got republished somewhere using another form.

  • You still might want to avoid "Cheerio!" and "Bob's Your Uncle" in technical writing. – Oldcat Mar 26 '14 at 0:37

Speaking as a technical writer, it is always important to be aware of the documentation style that you are expected to adhere to. What you are writing is not wrong; rather, it is just different. When in doubt, look at the style guide. Consistency is key. Companies, academic institutions, governments, etc. will usually have a style guide on hand. Being in the same country does not necessarily mean that styles will be the same.


In general, for multinational contexts, Standard American English appears to be the dominant dialect.

As for the IEEE: it's an international organisation based in New York City, so of course it uses American English!

  • 1
    The United Nations is an international organisation with its main headquarters in New York City too, but it mostly uses Oxford English, arguing against your "of course". – Jon Hanna Feb 4 '14 at 10:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.