In principle, people may spell as they like; however, the final revision of the German spelling reform (2006) is arguably the generally preferred orthography. For example, the German-language news agencies AFP, APA, Dow Jones, dpa, epd, KNA, Reuters, and sid have adapted the spelling to post-reform rules (2007). The post-reform rules are obligatory in schools, in public administration, and in legislation. The transitional periods in Germany (2007), Belgium (2007), Austria (2008), South Tyrol (2008), Switzerland (2009), and Liechtenstein (2009) have passed. The pre-reform rules are to be considered incorrect in schools.

Many posts on German Language Stack Exchange initially contain spelling mistakes, i.e. spelling that is not conforming to the current spelling rules. Such spelling mistakes are regularly corrected by means of edits (cf. editing orthographic errors).

However, in some cases, the spelling of a word is not conforming to the current spelling rules, but it is conforming to pre-reform rules. Generally, it is not certain whether this is a mistake or intentional. At present, the handling of such occurrences is varying. Some posts are corrected while others are not. In rare unfortunate cases, a mixed spelling might result from inconsistent editing.

Such posts may confuse or mislead readers – particularly learners. Editors may be hesitant to make the necessary changes.

Therefore, it seems advisable to try to standardize a community guideline like the following draft:

When editing a post, any spelling of a word that is not conforming to the current spelling rules [but is conforming to pre-reform rules / –] [shall / should / may / need not / should not / shall not] be changed [to a spelling that is conforming to the current spelling rules / –].

(In your answer, feel free to use any combination of the above or any other wording.)


The verbal forms shall and shall not are used to indicate requirements strictly to be followed and from which no deviation is permitted.

The verbal forms should and should not are used to indicate that among several possibilities one is recommended as particularly suitable, without mentioning or excluding others, or that a certain course of action is preferred but not necessarily required, or that (in the negative form) a certain possibility or course of action is deprecated but not prohibited.

The verbal forms may and need not are used to indicate that a certain course of action is permissible.

In order to limit the scope, this discussion is not about

  • recommendations for words that have more than one permissible spelling (Fotograf / Photograph; allgemeingültig / allgemein gültig)

  • the differences of standard written German and colloquial or regional expressions. All expressions can be written in accordance to the current spelling rules.

  • the Swiss spelling of ss instead of ß

  • the spelling of quotations. Quotations should retain the spelling of the original.

  • the spelling of sample texts if a particular spelling is discussed or illustrated

  • the spelling of texts in case the author of the post somehow indicates or announces that the particular spelling is applied intentionally


3 Answers 3


When editing a post, any spelling of a word that is not conforming to the current spelling rules should be changed to a spelling that is conforming to the current spelling rules.

The main reason why we are so keen on spelling at all is to avoid confusing language learners with misspellings. I would not see why the reason for the misspellings (sloppiness, typos, ignorance, old spelling, etc.) should matter for this and thus pre-reform spellings should be corrected like any normal spelling mistake. Also, it is now highly unlikely that the old spelling will rise from the dead and thus the new spelling is what is most useful to learn for language learners.

This should not be enforced with maximum power, though: An edit that is otherwise acceptable and does not correct old spelling to new spelling is not an invalid edit because of this – just the same way that we do not delete posts because they use the old spelling. Also we should in most cases not edit a post that isn’t already on the front page just to fix one or two occasions of pre-reform spelling and nothing else (if there are several occasions, e.g., because daß is used intensively, or if the difference is particularly confusing in the context, we should edit, however). Finally, nobody can insist on their posts remaining in the old spelling. (See also my answer to Should we make edits to titles simply to make letters lowercase?.)

  • One month after posting the question, I have accepted this answer because there appears to be consensus (as defined as ‘general agreement, characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting arguments’).
    – user9551
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 11:33

Deviations from standard spelling which are consistent and seem intentional should not be changed in an edit.

Doing so would be an unnecessarily aggressive act.


As you said, times of pre-reform rules are over. Those rules are nowadays incorrect if they differ from post-reform rules. So:

When editing a post, any spelling of a word that is not conforming to the current spelling rules shall be changed to a spelling that is conforming to the current spelling rules.

You also lined out the requisite exceptions:

  • Quotations shall not be changed
  • Sample text that was written to demonstrate pre-reform spelling shall be corrected according to pre-reform rules. This means, that in this special case post-reform spelling has to be converted into pre-reform spelling.
  • 1
    "Shall" may be a bit too demanding here. I'd word it as "should", this also in the light of the still ongoing discussion about the reform. Some suggested reformed spellings were even not accepted at all (which confusingly lead to two correct variants). Even for us Germans the reformed spelling is more of a recommendation than a strict rule. Still, editing to the new spelling is a good thing we should encourage (but not enforce).
    – Takkat
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 14:31

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