Last year I submitted a manuscript to a journal. The guidelines said that it can be written in British English or in American English, but not mixed. So I chose British English.

Now I must resubmit after revision, and see that they changed the guidelines, which are now:

English spelling should follow the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Authors might also wish to consult Fowler’s Modern English Usage (ed. R.W. Burchfield; Oxford University Press) and Scientific Style and Format (eds Council of Scientific Editors; Cambridge University Press).

Does it mean, that I still can use British English? I don’t have these dictionaries, so I am not sure about it. Wikipedia does not clearly say which flavour of English it is.

  • 1
    Beware that regardless of journal guidelines, you'll always find reviewers that complain about certain spellings and want to enforce their preferred one. Apr 2, 2018 at 11:06
  • 2
    It might be worth noting that while there are words with a single acceptable British English spelling (e.g. 'colour/color'), there are also words where UK sources differ (e.g. 'realise/realize').
    – origimbo
    Apr 2, 2018 at 13:09
  • Please include the research you’ve done. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. Reasonable research should be provided even if it fails to provide a satisfactory answer. The place to enquire is at OUP: 'Over 240,000 words, phrases, and definitions, covering technical and scientific vocabulary as well as English from around the world'. Apr 2, 2018 at 13:44
  • Also, it would be sensible to ask the journal's editors exactly what their requirements are. 'British English' is ill-defined in any case. Spellings and usages given in COD, Fowler and SSF are obviously well specified. Apr 2, 2018 at 13:49
  • @Edwin Ashworth: The specific requirements are clear and cited above, so why to ask the editors? My question concerns the COD, whether it's British English or not. My reaserch was done in Wikipedia, at the COD website and at amazon. But from the descriptions at these sites it still remained unclear for me. Apr 2, 2018 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


The Concise Oxford English Dictionary gives word definitions and spellings in British English.

While I can find no explicit source for this, I infer this from the fact that Oxford University Press also publishes the Concise Oxford American Dictionary, which gives word definitions in American English, thereby implying the Concise OED gives the British English definitions*.

Furthermore, the OUP and by extension, the OED, is based in Oxford, England, which makes it highly likely the OED is a British English dictionary.

In summary, you are fine to keep using British English. If you are uncertain about whether a particular word or spelling you have used is British or American in origin, a quick Google search will probably put you on the right track.

*I would check this myself by looking up some words in it, but I only have the Collins English dictionary in my house. Somewhat ironically, I live 15 miles outside Oxford.

  • Thank you. So when they write Concise Oxford Dictionary, the author can still choose between the British and the American Version. This would be equivalent to the former guideline.
    – treppenlift
    Apr 2, 2018 at 10:46
  • @treppenlift yes, I think that is what they mean. You could always email the editor for clarification.
    – astronat
    Apr 2, 2018 at 10:51
  • Off topic, but a nice bit of information: if you are registered with any British library, you can use your library card number to access the full OED online. Not sure about the Concise, though. Apr 2, 2018 at 11:02
  • Certainly the OED, and according to David Postill below the COD/COED also, use international rather than just British corpora. Apr 2, 2018 at 13:34

English spelling should follow the Concise Oxford Dictionary

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, was formally known as the Concise Oxford Dictionary:

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (officially titled The Concise Oxford Dictionary until 2002, and widely abbreviated COD or COED) is probably the best-known of the 'smaller' Oxford dictionaries. The latest edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary contains over 240,000 entries and 1,728 pages (concise only compared to the OED at over 21,000 pages). Its 12th edition, published in 2011, is used by both the United Nations and NATO as the current authority for spellings in documents written in English for international use.

This dictionary is aimed at International English usage rather than British English, although:

In addition to providing information for general use, it documents local variations such as United States and United Kingdom usage."

Source Concise Oxford English Dictionary - Wikipedia

There is a separate Concise Oxford American Dictionary.

  • Note that one should confuse the OED and its derivatives with the separate but confusingly named Oxford Dictionary of English which has a separate publishing history.
    – Mitch
    Apr 2, 2018 at 13:12

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