Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

My apologies if this is off topic.

American and British writing have different punctuation styles. Is there any software that can change American style punctuation to British? I am referring to punctuation, not spelling. A simple example would be changing the American styled

"Hello," he said.

to what (I think is) the British styled

'Hello', he said.

I am not entirely certain about the particulars which is why I need this tool in the first place.

share|improve this question

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Feb 15 '13 at 18:38

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

The "British" style includes punctuation inside the quotes if it's part of the quoted phrase, so while conversion from "British" to "American" is trivial, it's lossy, making 100% accurate conversion from "American" to "British" impossible. –  Jon Hanna Feb 15 '13 at 17:25
sed "s/,\"/\",/g" –  Mitch Feb 15 '13 at 18:04
Wow, that would be nice. I suggest you find an editor on the correct side of the pond and ask him/her to focus just on that. A native speaker/reader/writer is going to find that sort of thing fairly quickly, because the non-native bits will jump out. –  Lauren Ipsum Feb 15 '13 at 19:50
I didn't know what your proficiency is. To get the job done, it may turn out that the easiest thing (instead of spending time looking/googling for and evaluating tools), is to do it yourself real quick with a set of -simple- regexes. –  Mitch Feb 15 '13 at 19:57
I would try and find a writing style book, and then write out a script to make everything fit that style –  JustSomeDude Apr 17 '13 at 18:19

2 Answers 2

The idea that there are two styles is erroneous, as has been mentioned above. The 'rules' surrounding punctuation are becoming more relaxed year by year and, especially with the growth and use of the Internet, 'US' and 'UK' styles are becoming ever less easy to distinguish.

And since 'quotes are supposed to be exactly like the original', this would include importing a style possibly at variance with that used in the main body of the document.

That having been said, you might find this treatment of punctuation surrounding quotations interesting - even quite useful.

Though choosing to use double or single inverted commas in the first instance is more a matter of personal (maybe your editor's) choice, I tend to use double for direct speech, but single for other quotes, to signal novel/unusual words/usages, or perhaps the risky choice of a certain word ('scare quotes').

share|improve this answer
Mixing US and UK styles in one document is, according to every style manual I know, incorrect. –  Neil Fein Jan 23 at 12:52

Maybe the answer is really quite simple. Any decent word processing program will pick up on all of the incorrect punctuation and spelling if you import an American document into a British system. So if you import an American doc with the sentence:

 "What a lovely color," she said.

into a British system, it should squawk and flag things so you know to fix it up to be:

 'What a lovely colour', she said.

by whatever hideously tedious means you invent.

share|improve this answer
"Any decent word processing program will pick up on all ..." - not reliably. The NL parsers you find in such software is easily and frequently confused. –  Charles Stewart Jun 20 '13 at 21:48

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.