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- alternative spellings - Wiktionary considers two terms to be alternative spellings of each other if the following conditions are met:
- they have identical pronunciation and meaning
- they each satisfy Wiktionary's Criteria for Inclusion
- frequency of usage of either term is within an order of magnitude of that of the other, or two orders of magnitude if either is very common
- neither term arises directly from common accidental typos, human errors, scanning errors, etc.
- region-specific spellings - Wiktionary considers a term to be a region-specific alternative spelling of another term (with identical pronunciation and meaning), if its usage is overwhelmingly restricted to a specific country, dialect, profession, etc. Both terms must meet Wiktionary's Criteria for Inclusion.
- obsolete spellings - Wiktionary considers a term to be an obsolete spelling of another (to which it is pronounced and defined identically) if its usage is overwhelmingly restricted to texts from one hundred years ago or more, and/or to contemporary work which deliberately attempts to sound archaic.
To see under which of these descriptions a given spelling falls, simply open the appropriate entry.
Designation of a term as an alternative spelling of another is done for ease of maintenance, so editors don't have to painstakingly keep all the entries in sync.
In particular, while some editors try to make the "main" entry correspond to the most common spelling-- and some sysops actively encourage this-- the official policy is that all the spellings are equally valid. Thus, designation of a term as an alternative spelling of another does not mean it is in any way less valid (although care should be taken to see if the spelling is regional or obsolete).
Exception: in some very rare cases, "leet" alternative spellings meet our inclusion criteria and may be classified as alternative spellings. These should not be considered valid in any context except leetspeak. A leet entry will always warn that it is leet.
It is not mandatory to make an alt. spelling entry's content consist exclusively of an alternative spelling link; especially in cases when all spellings are obscure, a gloss is permitted for each spelling, although it is usually best to indicate that other spellings exist.