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Inquiry or Enquiry for Global Website?

 11:19 am on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm from the UK, but my website has a worldwide audience.

What's the best (in your opinion) choice when it comes to spelling?

For example:

"Thank you for your enquiry"
"Thank you for your inquiry"

I've used the first one as this is mostly accepted in the UK, but I hear the US prefers the second.

Occasionally, I get emails from people who seem very upset with my spelling.

Is it best just to avoid words like this, what's your opinion?



 11:38 am on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

There is no way you will keep every pedant happy about this. I would just use British English because it is easier for you to use it consistently and correctly.

What proportion of your traffic is US?


 11:53 am on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

I agree, go with British English.


 12:24 pm on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks for your reply.

US: 32%
UK 11%


 4:09 pm on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

So most of your visitors are neither UK or US. Its hard to predict what they will prefer - for example my experience in South Asia is that older people prefer British English, young people do not care and speak a mixture of the two.


 7:50 pm on Aug 4, 2011 (gmt 0)

The inquiry:enquiry pair cannot possibly be the only word on your entire page where you had to choose between British and American spelling. All the others were simply words you didn't even think about. If you really want to confuse or annoy the visitor, mix British and American spelling on the same page.

Or get a Canadian to rewrite it for you in the interest of compromise :)


 2:20 am on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Another way to annoy people: British English (words with different meanings, British idioms, etc. with American spellings.


 2:29 am on Aug 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

Geo target using SSIs for the offending words..but only if the complainants are willing to write and debug the required code on their own time and servers before you do..

btw .."Thank you for your interest" gets "it" done nice and blandly ..and is acceptable everywhere that isn't allergic to corporate speak..:)


 4:05 pm on Aug 6, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's true, you can't please everyone....best to go with British English


 9:23 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't understand why everybody says go with British English? Are they British, American or guessing? If it is due to "ease of use" then just load English(US) dictionary in Word and change everything that is wrong.

I'm an American who has spent many years overseas and my experience is that Brits are accustomed to American English and consider it a fact of life. Americans on the other hand often don't understand that not everybody spells the same way as they do (as the OP noted above). I could tell you a funny anecdote about color vs colour, but it's too long. Let's just say that to some Americans colour = colooor and is meaningless.

I bet most Americans here are unfamiliar with half of these


Note that the above reference says:
enquiry or inquiry:[106] According to Fowler, inquiry should be used in relation to a formal inquest, and enquiry to the act of questioning. Many (though not all) British writers maintain this distinction; the OED, on the other hand, lists inquiry and enquiry as equal alternatives, in that order. Some British dictionaries, such as Chambers 21st Century Dictionary,[107] present the two spellings as interchangeable variants in the general sense, but prefer inquiry for the "formal inquest" sense. In the US, only inquiry is commonly used; the title of The National Enquirer, as a proper name, is an exception. In Australia, inquiry and enquiry are often interchangeable, but inquiry prevails in writing. Both are current in Canada, where enquiry is often associated with scholarly or intellectual research.

There are a lot more, the first time I heard "have you got a spanner?" I had to stop and think, what could THAT be?


 11:02 pm on Aug 8, 2011 (gmt 0)

the first time I heard "have you got a spanner?" I had to stop and think, what could THAT be?

The academic (classroom or library) version is funnier ::snrk::

Less funny is the story I heard from a science teacher of having to show a whole video over again when it turned out her high-school students had no idea what the narrator meant by "aluminium".

Thanks for asking :)


 8:23 am on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

@sundaridevi, it depends on your visitors, but I have about 2,000 American visitors a day and no complaints about spelling. I also always use British English in forums and no one has every complained (and lots of forums are full of people who do plain about grammar and spelling).

The other thing is that he is almost certainly going to write British English better than American.

Also the British understand American English, but also often find it annoying - as do people from some other English speaking countries. Are visitors better annoyed or puzzled?

I find it really hard to believe that Americans find British English so hard. Some big British sits (the BBC, for example) get huge numbers of American visitors.

@lucy, for a long time "aluminium" was the recommended spelling of the American Chemical Society and it is the recommended spelling of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. How important that is, depends on your audience, but it does mean that students studying science should know "aluminium".


 8:44 am on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't understand why everybody says go with British English?

Since all else are derivatives isn't British English the standard?


 10:04 am on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Historically, no. Two of the most striking distinctions between British and American English-- the treatment of postvocalic "r" * and the pronunciation shift of short "a"-- are British innovations that occured after the dialects split. So American English is phonetically more conservative. (The same applies to several differences between Latin American and European Spanish.)

Most rules of spelling and punctuation did not became standardized until long after the dialects diverged. Like, er, standardize vs. -ise. A lot of things you think of as being carved in stone didn't take on their current form until late in the 19th century.

And that's not even getting into the differing terminology for things that didn't exist in 1507 or 1620 or 1783 or whatever you're setting as your cutoff.

Use the English dialect you're comfortable with and that you're most likely to write correctly within its own rules.

* In, ahem, English English. As opposed to, say, for example, Scots English.


 10:31 am on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Since all else are derivatives isn't British English the standard?

I would go with whatever got the message across most effectively. I'm pretty certain that shows like the BBC have certain standards of acceptable dialog. And some of them must include using a more internationally acceptable version of English. CNN has guidelines including lists of words that can't be used, so I would be surprised if the BBC didn't.

I once published a magazine for an international audience and the copy editor was English. She just said at the beginning. OK we will use American English. There were only a few instances of figures of speech where the English and American versions were completely different. Otherwise it's mostly spelling and vocabulary. Of course the humor is completely different...

Come to think of it, whenever we used English writers they always submitted American English as well.


 11:33 am on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

Historically, no. Two of the most striking distinctions between British and American English-- the treatment of postvocalic "r" * and the pronunciation shift of short "a"-- are British innovations that occured after the dialects split.

Ah but this is pronunciation as opposed to spelling. There are many people within the UK who, when speaking in their local accent or dialect cannot be understood by anyone outside of their communities. (I am one of them.) ;)

The original settlers in the USA during the 17th and 18th centuries were mainly people from the UK who spoke English from their neck of the woods. For more than two hundred years there was little communication between the two populations. I actually think that the American accent has some similarities to that used in the south west of England. Many of the original settlers came from that area, which would explain it.

Some words considered by we in the UK to be American English are actually original English words that were retained in the US but not here. In his excellent book "Made in America", the American writer Bill Bryson asks this question.

"Why did the Americans save such good old English words as skedaddle and chitterlings and chore, but not fortnight or heath? Why did they keep the irregular British pronunciations in words like colonel and hearth, but go down our own way in with lieutenant and schedule and clerk? Why in short is American English the way it is?"

Personally I think it was caused by the languages evolving separately at a time when there was little communication. This is no longer the case and the languages will once again merge due to increased worldwide communication in English.

<What am I rambling on about?> :)


 5:06 pm on Aug 10, 2011 (gmt 0)

a simple a small answer use what most of the users you have :) always respond to majority .


 8:54 am on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Write the way you want to write.

If people get a bee-in-their-bonnet about things like this then they fundamentally misunderstand the evolution of language, culture and the fact that there is no absolute, correct version.

always respond to majority

Mob rules? No thanks. Vive la différence.


 10:00 am on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Si, moi aussi! Grazie. ;)


 10:47 am on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

If we don't all lighten up about "being right" we're doomed.

Use both: inquiry here, enquiry there. Love everyone.

If "everyone" doesn't get it, i.e., some just cannot live without "being special" (as in "IT'S ENQUIRY!") well, just keep on loving them.


 11:50 am on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

These are not direct substitutes, "inquiry" means something slightly different in English English. You have a formal inquiry while a customer makes an e-mail enquiry. For this reason you should stick to the latter in international usage, as the Merkins will understand it just fine and you won't cause frowns on the faces of the rest of the world.

I've used enquiry as the main e-mail address for years, i.e. enquiries@brand.com, with no problems. I do redirect from inquiries@ and other misspellings but never any actual complaints (!) - I wouldn't think much of anybody who bothered to quibble on something like that.

If you're a British company I would stick with British spelling and go with that identity. Your "voice", style of writing etc, is likely to come across as slightly "foreign" to US visitors anyway. If you do want to manage the variant spellings, you would need to implement geo location and a dictionary of alternative spellings. Unless you have other reasons to do geo variations I wouldn't bother.


 2:25 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

>> What am I rambling on about?

OMG you ended a sentence with two prepositions, tsk tsk.
And you employed the "meaningless be" of the gerund like "I am rambling", as opposed to "I ramble" - a curious grammar construction inherited from Welsh and Cornish. Ever notice you don't hear that kind of phrase construction in Shakespearean English? It's a recent phenomenon. But I am digressing.

The differences in US/UK English aren't just lexical, they're also grammatical.

Use "inquiry". I'm Canadian, my colours have U's and a centre ends with "re". But "enquiry" looks weird to me, and we say "wrench" not "spanner". The advice about getting a Canadian to rewrite your text isn't a bad idea actually.


 2:47 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

getting a Canadian

A Canadian - maybe from Quebec?

Or what about an Aussie or New Zealander?

Or a Jamaican - now that's some crazy language use right there!


 2:57 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

A Canadian - maybe from Quebec?

Someone looking for me?


 3:25 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I vote for "either". I confer with many Brits (and Scots, and Irish) friends on Twitter. I have no problem understanding their spelling differences, nor reading those differences on web pages to which they refer.

And I'm one of those to whom they refer as the #grammarpolice: aware of dangling participles, split infinitives, and all.

Some "best practices" in "an English" are somewhat important. Clarity and other matters evolve; Hemingway's rules are eternal. But "inquiry" versus "enquiry" (and "color" versus "colour") seem to me overly nitpicky.

"Even if you do learn to speak correct English, whom are you going to speak it to?" (Clarence Darrow) [dangling participle his own]


 4:25 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

ooh, danglers are a grammar error up with which I will not put.


 4:38 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

But "inquiry" versus "enquiry" (and "color" versus "colour") seem to me overly nitpicky.

Actually in British English it is not nitpicky. As others have said they do have two entirely different meanings.


 4:56 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

OOoo... httpwebwitch, if you don't wish to, then simply phrase it as, "I will not put up with grammar errors such as danglers."

And, BeeDeeDubbleU, if you see a difference, use, as others have suggested, "Thanks for your interest."

In other words, if there may be a doubt, English is usually flexible enough to offer you a comfortable alternative.


 5:42 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'd think about branding: is US or British English more consistent with the site? "Bespoke Suits" might mystify many Americans, but for those in the know it would enhance the appeal of the product.


 6:45 pm on Aug 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

Because 90% of our vistors are American, we have had to make all the spellings on our Canadian based ecommerce website American. I have set the spell check for every computer in the building to US spelling so we dont accidently insert a "u" to a word.

Strangely, about once a year a Canadian citizen sends an angry email to us telling us to fix the spelling on our website! I reply with a long email telling them of our prediciment and that we have to do it this way.

I also took a Sharpie to my monitor and wrote "ZEE" above the screen. So that if I am reading off a UPS tracking number to a customer on the phone I don't say "1 - Zed". I did that once for a customer in Alabama and the guy was mystified at what I was trying to tell him. :-)

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