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Which reference document can I consult for converting American sentences into British English? Is there a gold standard resource?

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  • You'll likely have limited success with infoenglish.net/british-to-american-english, but it's a start. Don Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 14:24
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    There's no "gold standard" definition of AmE / BrE differences. Which would in any case be a "moving feast", as preferred syntax and vocabulary travel in both directions across the pond. Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 14:56
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    We beg, borrow & steal each others all the time, whilst conversely claiming originality of some, flat denial of others, and find a hill to die on when it comes to spelling something like theatre. ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 15:32
  • @Tetsujin *misspelling
    – lly
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 15:33
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    In American English we would say "a moveable feast" :-)
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 11:19
  • Excellent question... I would think that most English speaking publishing houses have their own official internal reference documents for conversion but I don't think I've ever come across one on the internet. I haven't looked but there might be such a crosswalk on Wikipedia. The OED (and many other online dictionaries) is really good about stating for individual lexical items the alternative between AmE and BrE, but you have to look at each word individually rather than as a convenient list of rules.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 13, 2023 at 15:33

2 Answers 2

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I think the concept of 'gold standard' is falling out of fashion. Or even just plain old standard. But

And there are books out their that I would consider much more authoritative but are not exactly reference material (difficult to look things up), for example the excellent The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship between American and British English by Lynne Murphy.

Also, at least for spelling differences (but not vocabulary) any major online dictionary will tell you for a given word entry if it is primarily British or American (but not Canadian or Australian), and may or may not (ie willy-nilly) give you the alternative in the other variety.

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The default for most of humanity would be resetting your edition of Word to use British English instead of American English. That should create squiggly lines under all your colors and centers and Freedomizationaters. Fix 'em.

No, that isn't bulletproof. It won't necessary use (eg) whilst in the right places since Brits actually use while all the time. Similarly, it won't know which compounds need hyphens now or figure out that ton needs to be converted to metric and then respelt tonne or let you know that people's weights should be in stone if they're older than Stephen Fry and vote Tory. It won't remotely help you speak in a regional dialect or actually sound posh. By default, you'll come across as a well-meaning immigrant or an upper middle-class wannabe who watches too many American TV shows instead of proper British television programmes.

Full conversion to Oxbridge would require using a formal style guide like Fowler's, but that will come along with plenty of rules and distinctions that are dear to the authors' hearts but aren't necessarily actually observed in the wild.

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    What makes you think Brits use 'while all the time'. Maybe in conversation, but there's a neat distinction between the two that makes whilst useful in writing.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 16:42

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