Language details - Contributing to Juju docs

The official language of Canonical documentation is English, or en-GB to be more precise. There are all sorts of minor differences between English and American English, including spelling, verb morphology, transitives, etc.


A significant minority of the readership will not have English as their first language. Where possible, avoid complex word order and very rare words.


Popular belief is that you will merely need to add a few 'u’s to words and change -ize to -ise everywhere. It is a bit more complicated than that though. In fact, many -ize endings are acceptable in en-GB, though the -ise endings are generally preferred.

The Oxford English Dictionary Style Guide (1998) has this to say:

The verbal ending -ize has been in general use since the 16th century; it is favoured in American English and in much British writing, and remains the current preferred style of Oxford University Press in academic and general books published in Britain. However, the alternative spelling -ise is now widespread (partly under the influence of French), especially in Britain, and may be adopted provided that its use is consistent. … A number of verbs always end in -ise in British use, notably advertise, chastise, despise, disguise, franchise, merchandise, surmise, and all verbs ending in -cise, -prise, -vise (including comprise, excise, prise (open), supervise, surprise, televise, etc.), but -ize is always used for prize (=value), capsize, size. … Spellings with -yze (paralyze, analyze) are only acceptable in American use.

As you can see, it can be rather tricky. And that is only the ize/ize issue. There are many other endings which differ (e.g. -eled/-elled as in “travelled” and “labelled”. The best way to ensure that you are using consistent en-GB spelling is to simply enable the en-GB dictionary on whatever software you generally use for writing.

For example, in vim you could execute the command:

:setlocal spell spelllang=en_gb 

This will change the spelling highlight options for the local buffer only, so you won’t have to worry about whatever language you normally use. Do not worry about your atrocious grammar (in either variant of the language) as the docs monkeys are used to tidying that up!

Word Meanings

Over time, the meaning of several English words has drifted. Few of these differences will thankfully have no impact on writing the documentation for Juju though. It is unlikely you will be talking about “pants” or “hockey” or “tabling motions” for example.

One thing to keep in mind is the use of concrete examples to explain concepts. A “football analogy” is likely to confuse readers.

Further References

Wikipedia has a few good articles: