Sample text:

Dude had long been sceptical of abrupt changes in weather.

(Quoted from an Australian author.)

As an American, I was startled to see the alternative spelling of skeptical. Perhaps I am over-thinking, however, I found it distracting.

Sceptical is the British form of skeptical. https://wikidiff.com/sceptical/skeptical

When one's goal is to reach the majority of English readers, is there a widely accepted English form of spelling to accomplish this goal?

  • These are all great comments! Thank you so much for your help. – Cheryl Apr 16 at 1:17

Generally speaking, it doesn't matter whether you use British English or American English in a story, so long as you keep it consistent:

  • If you use "sceptical", you will need to ensure you use British English throughout ("colour", "car park", "realise", etc).
  • If you use "skeptical", you will need to ensure you use American English throughout ("color", "parking lot", "realize", etc).

This can be difficult - as you've already discovered, it's not always easy to tell whether a certain word is spelt (spelled) differently between British and American English. Even I sometimes find myself getting mixed up between the British and American English spellings of certain words. However, most spell-checkers, including MS Word's and Google Chrome's, have separate settings for British and American English. If you use the wrong one by mistake, the spell-checker can flag it up for you.

There is one exception: in scientific writing, "aluminium" is preferred to "aluminum" (though both are correct), and "sulfur" is preferred to "sulphur". Unless you're writing a chemistry paper, though, you can most likely get away with using either version so long as it's consistent with the rest of the text, and only the most pedantic of readers will take issue with it.

  • 1
    Skeptical, colour, parking lot, realize --hard for us Canadians to sort it out sometimes. – Allan Apr 14 at 21:04

Because you're self-publishing, there is no "house" style.

Let's take a look at your example, "skeptical vs sceptical" on GoogleNgram:

enter image description here

You can see that the American version is much preferred.

Most of the time, it is best to use American or British English rather than Canadian or Australian because they are the most popular.

Other English audiences are used to American and British English, but the spelling of a few words doesn't really make a huge difference (as long as your consistent with them), as illustrated by this quote from selfpublishingadvice.org:

“It’s not really that difficult to get it right,” she advised. “But I agree that there’s no need to use Canadian English when targeting Canadian readers. We’re used to reading American and British English. I use Canadian English in all my work. Nobody has complained (yet), and I mainly sell in the USA.”

  • 1
    Actually, as a "statistics geek", I find it necessary to point out that Ngram data is not necessarily representative of what is "preferred". It is only showing the number of occurrences in published books at the specified points in time. Also, it makes a big difference which corpus was selected when generating the data. For example, this result shows a considerably different result. "Skeptical" is still currently "winning," but as recently as 2008 it was the other way around. Obviously the "preference" must depend on the intended audience. – ashleedawg Apr 15 at 8:44
  • 1
    TL;dr - Ngram shows the writer's choice in spelling, not the reader's preference. Ngram also includes words that were misspelled (misspelt?) by the writers. – ashleedawg Apr 15 at 8:46

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