Wikipedia allows multiple languages for its articles. But how about dialects? English has multiple varieties. How does that work at Wikipedia?

It's one thing to know the policy that Wikipedia has about different standards for the different Englishes. But if they allow different standards, is one favored over the other? By how much?

Does somebody know that? What is the reason?

  • 1
    See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – dubious
    May 10 at 12:51
  • 4
    I’m voting to close this question because it asks about how a single resource chooses to use English. This (a) is essentially about in-house style rather than general usage and (b) should be answered by reasonable research. May 10 at 13:19
  • 1
    Thanks for asking! But I’m voting to close this question because it's not so much about language as about the policies of another website. @dubious's link seems to answer the core question, and the "why" can be best answered by Wikipedia. May 10 at 13:28
  • 1
    Wikipedia articles can be written by anybody and edited by anybody.
    – Lambie
    May 10 at 14:02
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    @AndyBonner 1) Totally on-topic to ask a question about the language of some source. 2) It's on-topic to discuss a policy of a source (eg the punctuation style of quotes in the house style of NYT vs Guardian) 3) Also, this is not explicitly asked about the policy of Wikipedia but just what is (info both aspects would be welcome info in an answer). That is, we have a link in a comment about the policy (what should be/is recommended), but it'd be even more informative to say what the frequency of each variety is (what actually is).
    – Mitch
    May 10 at 14:14

3 Answers 3


In general, English Wikipedia articles can be written in whatever standard variety the writer is familiar with- with the caveat that within a given Wikipedia article, the style should be consistent (WP:COFAQ#ENGLISH). The English Wikipedia has no single (or narrow couple of) standard varieties (WP:ENGVAR).

This means that, generally speaking, whichever variety an article starts to be written in is usually the style that it ends up conforming to. This doesn't mean that writers of a different variety can't contribute, however; it merely means that they should try to match the style and shouldn't be surprised if someone edits their contribution to match.

There are a handful of exceptions to this, however:

  • Articles with strong ties to a given variety of English may conform to one of those varieties. So, for example, the article on Sri Lanka is written in Sri Lankan English. The variety of English that an article is written in can change to account for this sort of match, but this happens only with broad consensus (WP: CONLEVEL).
  • Quotations and proper names are written as they would by/in the source (MOS:ARTCON).
  • Element names are written to match international expectations (so aluminum is aluminium (WP:NC Element Names).

Any variety of English is acceptable in Wikipedia, but:

  • if the subject of an article is particularly associated with a certain English-speaking region (not just UK or US) then the article should use the variant of English used in that region.
  • Otherwise, whatever variety was used when the article was first created should be maintained.

See this part of the Manual of Style


There are multiple things going on here. First there's a difference between spoken and written language. Most of the differences between spoken British English and American English. Since spoken language tends towards the informal and Wikipedia is written and more formal.

Wikipedia does have multiple languages (see the left panel for the various ones), but it doesn't have separate American, British, Australian, Irish, Indian, etc etc versions. Scots is considered a distinct language from English though it is very close. There is a separate Scots language Wikipedia but it was notorious for having many articles 'translated' from the English articles using automated one-to-one translations of some vocabulary into Scots.

Wikipedia has an English language policy:

The English Wikipedia prefers no national variety of English over any other.

Anybody can write anything on Wikipedia - so someone might edit spellings to their own local standard, or may do it in one part of an article and not another. The Wikipedia style guide says

American English spelling should not be respelled to British English spelling, and vice versa; for example, both color and colour are acceptable and used in article titles (such as color gel and colour state).

There is nothing in an article that says "This article was written in American (or British) English". But there may be clues in it - spelling choices may be the most reliable ('-or'/'-our', or '-er'/'-re') are common enough that a long enough article may have one.

But there is no easy way to comprehensively judge of all English articles, which variety of English is used by the author, so it is unlikely at the moment to be able to discover exactly what the ratio is. My semi educated guess is that most (>75%) English articles have been written by Americans using American style because 1) Wikipedia was started by Americans, 2) there are 330M USians vs 70M UKians, 3) I don't feel like I see many British spellings on Wikipedia.

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