Based on what I was taught in English class, those words were spelled correctly, though, according to my readers, they weren't. With a groan, I realised that I walked head-on into the old debate of British vs American spelling: most of the readers were from the US.
Many will argue the fact that when you write, you must use the American spelling. Particularly if it will be published on the web. Others argue that you should use British spelling, as that is proper English. So where do you draw the line?
On the way to work, there is a sign next to the road, warning of roadworks and that drivers should use a different route. Immediately you think the sign says to seek an alternate route. If I were in the US, or any other country were American English is spoken, that would be correct. Were I in any country speaking British English, the appropriate word would be alternative. "But it's the same thing," you argue. Not quite.
After a quick search via Google, I found the following, distinct definitions of the words alternative and alternate.
Alternative: The choice between two mutually exclusive possibilities.
Alternate: To act or proceed by turns.
Let me illustrate. If the sign read to take an alternative route, I need to take a different route until the roadworks have been completed. If the sign read to take an alternate route, I would take a different route tomorrow, but the day after I would use the same road as today. The day after that I would use the different route again, alternating between the two roads.
"It's all just semantics," I hear you say. For a writer (regardless of what they write), spelling and grammar are two building blocks of any language that cannot be broken or treated lightly. One of a very few exceptions would be writing science-fiction where the writer creates the 'alien' language from scratch, defining the spelling and grammar.
So how does the modern day writer please the critics and so-called language experts? Personally, I follow these two basic rules:
1. Write in the language of your story.
2. Use spelling and grammar appropriate to your market.
If I were to write a novel taking place in England during the turn of the previous century, with British characters, I would be more inclined to use British spelling. On the other hand, if I were to write a novel intended for the American market, I would be more inclined to use American spelling. Of course there is nothing preventing you from having your work 'localised'. JK Rowling did it with her famous Harry Potter series. Her original manuscript was written in British English, but was 'localised' for the American market, changing the spelling and certain phrases to match the local market.
"So my publisher can worry about that then," you argue. Probably, but it would certainly count in your favour to write appropriate to your market. You wouldn't write a novel set in the US, with American characters, intended for the American market and use British spelling and grammar, would you?
Next time you read an article or blog and have the need to correct the writer's spelling, take a step back and look at the context of his/her writing before you list off all their spelling and grammar 'mistakes'.