Should we have an official spelling variant? i.e. should we declare one form of spelling "incorrect" and subject to editing?

I'm in favour of not enforcing a standard for text, but we will definitely need one for tagging.

Let's write down suggestions, and have them voted on.


4 Answers 4


I suggest

  • accepting all spelling standards for text

  • enforcing Neue Rechtschreibung (or whatever is most current right now) for text when the word in question is important in the context of the contribution (like when looking for a translation, as suggested by @poke in the comments).

  • enforcing Neue Rechtschreibung for tags. Tags are always in Standard German

  • not enforcing Neue Rechtschreibung at all where the context is explicitly Swiss German or Austrian German, who have different spelling rules.

  • 5
    I’m fine with that, except that we should still enforce the Neue Rechtschreibung, when it makes sence. For example when there is some question about a good word for something, the replied word should use the correct spelling according to the Neue Rechtschreibung. Same with grammar rules when the question is about it. Apart from that, yes, don’t overdo the editing just for minor things.
    – poke
    May 24, 2011 at 20:18
  • @poke fair enough, that sounds sensible.
    – Pekka
    May 24, 2011 at 20:23
  • 1
    totally forbidding would be the total wrong way simply because a) there will be (and are) questions about differences or texts in the old orthography and b) we do have 3 standards (german, austrian and swiss). If a text is about a specific context I'd also suggest to let it be written in this context (e.g. question about a swiss-german problem should not be re-edited to germany-german) May 31, 2011 at 23:24
  • @Samuel My suggestion is actually not forbidding anything completely. I am for enforcing German N.R. only when a word is in the focus of the question (like, "what is a good German word for xyz?") - obviously, if the question is about a Swiss or Austrian word, their respective standards would be used. Any other text in the question should not be forced into any standard. That should work for everyone
    – Pekka
    May 31, 2011 at 23:29
  • @Pekka I did understand that, therefore my upvote. I just wanted to emphasize it a little more. In respect to the suggestion of @thei it seems that some US people are not used to it. As I will most of the times unintentionally write in austrian-german :) Thanks for your comprehensible and plausible list. I'd just add this "native language for native problems shouldn't be edited" May 31, 2011 at 23:34
  • @Samuel ah, fair enough. I've added that to the list!
    – Pekka
    May 31, 2011 at 23:35
  • thanks @Pekka, I guess I'll need to contentrate more on 'first pros, second cons, third debate' with my comments :D May 31, 2011 at 23:39
  • 1
    Totally against enforcement of the Neue so-called "Recht"-schreibung. Amongst other reasons, it constitutes discrimination against elder people who never bothered about bureaucratic monsters.
    – Ingo
    Jan 6, 2014 at 11:08

I'd suggest:

  • Try to use neue Rechtschreibung whenever you can
  • Try to indicate when you deviate from it

  • Must use neue Rechtschreibung or clearly indicate deviation when there is relevance to the question

  • Must use neue Rechtschreibung in tags

  • May edit posts to "upgrade" them to neue Rechtschreibung

I would suggest to even using neue Rechtschreibung when answering posts about dialects or Swiss or Austrian German (except for the examples, obviously), similar to an english encyclopedia not using German when describing German words.


Swiss orthography.

(This is not a very serious suggestion, but less frivolous than it might seem. First of all, it is important to notice that there are other orthographies beside the two mentioned ones and secondly, when I spent time in a US school, the pupils learned Swiss orthography so they would not have to fuss with ß.)

Compare: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9F#In_der_Schweiz_und_in_Liechtenstein

  • 1
    Interesting! To be honest, I have no idea what Swiss ortography entails exactly. Do you have a link?
    – Pekka
    May 24, 2011 at 20:22
  • 1
    Mmmmm, I find this a suggestion seriously worth considering - it might be easier for non-native speakers, because it retains all the old spelling rules (right?) but gets rid of the ß. I don't know how acceptable that is among linguists and teachers though - we'll see how the voting turns out
    – Pekka
    May 24, 2011 at 20:31
  • 6
    While respecting the existence of other orthographies I think we should stick to the official German one, i.e. the Neue Rechtschreibung. I guess that most people that are learning German want to learn the official orthography and grammar that is used in Germany.
    – Deve
    May 26, 2011 at 19:53
  • 1
    @Speravir Googlen nach Basel Parkverbot gibt sofort de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Basel-Parkverbot.JPG
    – Phira
    Nov 12, 2012 at 8:37
  • There are serious reasons against using Swiss orthography. Trinken Sie Wein in Massen!
    – Jan
    May 10, 2015 at 19:52
  • 1
    @Jan Ein Maß ist ein Liter, oder?
    – Mr Lister
    May 10, 2015 at 21:21
  • @MrLister That's a Mass (short a), but was a Maß before the reform … but missing my point by a mile (not even the word(s) I was referencing there ;))
    – Jan
    May 10, 2015 at 22:00

I definitely prefer the "old" spelling rules, and I do so for politicial reasons: The language we use is not property of politicians, nor of people working in ministries. Those however were those who tried to impose the "new" rules onto society. Okay, I accept that someone has to decide what exactly is taught in schools, and what rules civil servants should apply when producing texts, but these decisions cannot be binding in any way for other parts of the society, including of course private individuals, private businesses and, especially, people or organisations who professionally publish things, e.g. journalists and newspapers.

The problem is, people in Germany tend to be overly attracted by rules and by what some people up in the hierarchy tell them to do, so many people seem to believe that the "new" spelling rules are something quite similar to law. Which they are not, and cannot be.

In everyday practice I have adopted the use of "ss" and "ß" from the "new" rules because this part of the "new" rules indeed simplifies things (ss after a short vowel, ß after a long vowel including diphthonge). For almost everything else, however, I stick to the "old" rules. Particularly so regarding Getrenntschreibung/Zusammenschreibung were the "new" rules would lead to misleading meaning and bereave us of nuanced expression.

  • Foreign language learners reading your answers "want to get it right", some even need to because they might use knowledge gained from your answers in tests for language certificates - You're not helping them with your (otherwise perfectly acceptable, but still disputable) "I have got my own subset of rules" - attitude.
    – tofro
    Apr 23, 2017 at 6:15
  • If you insist on your spelling, at least make sure you make the language learner aware of it and make sure example sentences are in NDR
    – tofro
    Apr 23, 2017 at 7:19
  • 1
    The old rules were formed by "people working in ministries" as much as the "new" rules (in fact, a lot of scientists are in the process). Political influence on orthography reaches back as far back as to good old Konrad Duden.
    – Jonathan Herrera Mod
    Apr 25, 2017 at 16:08
  • 1
    @tofro. Every serious publisher in Germany has his/her/its individual subset of rules, anyway. Ask Süddeutsche Zeitung, ask Frankfurter Allgemeine or whomever you want. This is practically unavoidable because a) some of the rules introduced with "NDR" are somewhere between misleading and idiotic, and b) in many cases now you have - even when strictly following "NDR" - alternative spellings to chose from, and you have to make your choice anyway. So, subsets are unavoidable. - As for the issue of foreign learners possibly getting confused: that's not my fault, rather the fault of "NDR". May 26, 2017 at 22:14
  • @ChristianGeiselmann ... and none of those collides with the rules, but rather interprets them. As long as you accept what your doing is just plain wrong, I'm fine. I hope you'll never decide that driving on the left hand side of the road is much more intelligent (for political reasons, obviously) than what everyone else does...
    – tofro
    May 27, 2017 at 8:49
  • It’s not like German is the only language with spelling dictated by politicians, just to point out another obvious flaw in your argument.
    – Jan
    Jun 7, 2017 at 21:02

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