Alright, grey, judgement, barbeque: Alternate spellings and how to choose the best one

Can you wear a grey shirt to a back yard barbeque if, in your judgement, it seems alright because your accoutrements match the ambiance? Not on my watch.

Grey, barbeque, back yard, judgement, alright, accoutrements and ambiance are just a few of the terms I change on sight — not because they’re wrong but because these alternate spellings are considered subpar in the world of professional editing.

English has lots of words you can spell two ways. In some cases, one spelling is strongly preferred. In other cases, both are equally good.

But in the publishing world, you can’t just pick one based on your mood — even if it’s correct. The reason? A newspaper or book can’t have barbeque in one paragraph, BBQ in another and barbecue on the next page. Inconsistencies like that are sloppy and unprofessional. For editors, there’s usually just one right choice. So how do we know which spelling to use? Two ways: style guides and dictionary cues.

The Associated Press Stylebook makes the call on certain words for news media that follow AP style. For example, if you look up “barbeque” in the AP guide, you’ll see “barbecue … not barbeque, Bar-B-Q or BBQ.” That doesn’t mean that “barbeque” is wrong. It means it’s wrong in AP style. It also means that your reader is accustomed to seeing news outlets spell it with a C, so if you spell it with a Q, it will seem a little unprofessional. Here's a look at other alternate spellings in my recent column.

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