I’m sitting at my desk finally getting some writing done about culture and education and how teachers shouldn’t make assumptions about students’ learning potential based on their nationality – seems obvious, right? you’d be surprised at how often that type of generalization occurs … and then, just as a type the word ‘generalization’, I remember that I am writing for a British publication and that I need to spell it generalisation — and then, the red line appears.

Seeing the red line annoys me, but it also annoys me that I will have to accept the spelling of that word and add it to my glossary in order to get rid of the red line. I click add — but it’s a spelling I don’t accept.

It’s a simple annoyance really, but it’s an annoyance nonetheless.

I continue to type and as I change each word to match the requirements of the publisher, more red lines appear. I know that these are not spelling errors; however, it doesn’t feel right to spell that way. As I continue to change my spelling, my own writing starts to look foreign to me. It just isn’t fulfilling spelling fulfil without the second ‘l’.

An excerpt from my writing:

Aca Spelling red lines

excerpt from my chapter published in (En)Countering Native-speakerism: Global Perspectives

Since I want to publish, I have to follow the guidelines set by the publisher, which means – if they want British spelling, they’re going to get British spelling. I grit my teeth and make the adjustment.

I’ve been asked before – it’s just spelling, is it that big a deal?

To me, it is.

I was not taught to spell this way. It does not feel natural to me. It does not accurately represent who I am. It does not represent the cultural connection I have to my writing, because in the end, even if my writing is for the public, it is still very personal. It is my voice. These are my words. What and how I choose to write is a reflection of me — yet there’s still that red line.

Before I started writing my PhD thesis, I asked my advisor if it would be ok for me to use American spelling. He said yes. I was relieved. I thought, in the end, I can’t write about the links between culture, language, and identity and have someone else tell me how to alter my spelling to suit their cultural sensibilities. (Similarly, I tell my students they can use whichever variation of spelling suits them.)

Yet, here I am, being haunted by those red lines.

It bugs me that whenever my writing will be quoted that this is the spelling that will be associated with my name.

I find it ironic that so much of the research I am involved in has to do with accepting and celebrating diversity and cultural differences — yet I am being forced to conform — and conform based on style vs. substance. I can understand setting¬†high standards for the quality of writing in a given publication, but dictating my spelling (and even the structure in which I want to present my research and narrative) feels, once again, like too often we preach (about acceptance and diversity) but don’t put those preachings into practice (or should that be practise?).


a few examples of differences between American & British spelling