Writing style: alternate spellings in quotations?

Sort of a strange question. Let’s say we are quoting Tony Blair making a comment about how the sky looks today. The British usually say that blue is a colour, whereas Americans often note it as a color.

Is there a “proper” way to handle this?

I’d spell it for my audience. After all, it’s not like you can verify his spelling based on what he said–maybe he misspells every other word in the sentence, but you can’t know that.

In a direct quotation from a written document, one preserves the original spelling of the author, with no annotations if it is “standard” in some part of the Anglophone world. If he or she uses a variant spelling that is not considered standard (e.g., “connexion” if, as I recall, British usage joins American in preferring “connection”), one inserts a bracketed italic “[sic]” to indicate that the author’s spelling is preserved. (This is not supercilious but a heads-up to reader/quoter and proofreader that accuracy is being preserved and no error has occurred.)

If one quotes a passage where variants and misspellings regularly occur, as might happen if, in a thread dealing with information management, one quoted Melvil Dewey (“Dui”) of the DDS, an advocate and devotee of simplified spelling, one might simply place after the quotation, “(spelling as in original)” to the same end.

I think the rule is to spell it the way readers expect it to be spelt. If you are sending copy to the Times in London, then you should refer to “colour”. If you are working for the NY Times, then you say “color”.

Curiously, the Australians write “labour”, except when they are referring to the Labor party. Of course, that’s what happens when you spend your lives upside down.

The sound of words can be a problem. I remember my English teacher asked us to write down the sentence “there are three ways to write the word ###”. I have marked the word ### because there are three ways to write it - “to”, “two” and “too”. You can say it, but you can’t write it.

In the case of a spoken quotation, spell it for the audience. It’s well known that Blair pronounces the word “color” in the U.S. and “colour” in the UK.*

With a written quote, strict style says you include the misspellings with [sic] to indicate them. However, as long as the words haven’t changed, changing the spelling to conform to the audience’s usage is OK.

*This is a joke, son.

I believe it is also depends for what reason you are using it. If it is for a thesis or even a college research paper I would leave the spelling in the original parlance.

On the other hand, if it were for a newspaper article, or a minor paper for a class, I would (and I believe the AP style book agrees) go with the American spelling.