Watch Your English Style for Web Content

by Meryl Evans | Category: Business, Language, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech, Writing 1 comment

as_time_goes_byI’m hooked on As Time Goes By, a British TV show starring the Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. I’m also getting into British-based Prime Suspect with Helen Mirrin.

Not only do I enjoy the repartee between Dench and Palmer, but also hearing the British accents. While I may not have good hearing, I can see and recognize the differences between British and American English.

I watch these shows with closed-captions or English subtitles. An interesting thing to note is that the captions use the American English spelling rather than British. For example, if a character says “color,” the captions also says “color” rather than “colour.”

Now why would a British TV show use American spelling? Because the DVD, a BBC America production, targets the American audience. This confirms Jakob Nielsen’s belief that web content need to use the correct variant of English and stick with it throughout the web site.

I love learning the differences in our languages including sounds, terms (football instead of soccer; Earth instead of dirt; loo instead of bathroom), and slang.

What amazes me is the shows make many American references. As an American, I might notice this more. However, I don’t think I’ve seen references to other countries and their cultures except in reference to an event such as Palmer’s character’s time spent in Korea.

Back to English and content. As much as I love the British culture and language (UK is one of the first places I want to travel whenever I get to the other side of the world), I use American English on this web site.

After all, most readers and clients hail from the US plus it’s where I live. Now, if I had an audience of 75% from the UK, then it could be a different story. However, it wouldn’t be a straight-out easy answer of using British English.

As much as I have picked up British slang, concepts, and terms, I will probably make mistakes. So is it better to stick with what I know best and stay consistent, or take a risk to devote thhe siteĀ  to British English and make a bad impression when I make honest mistakes?

Experts says to “speak in the audience’s language.” But does US and UK variation English count? In either case, we’re speaking English. For credibility’s sake, I’d probably need to stick with American English.

One of the more important rules regarding web content is “consistency.” That means deciding whether you use American English or Queen’s English, web site or website, Internet or internet.

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1 comment

  • Posted by Brad Shorr on January 16th, 2009, 6:38 AM

    Hi Meryl, Like you, I’m a big fan of UK English, and actually write about it frequently on my blog. As a matter of fact, right now on Twitter we’re having a little conversation on “birling”. But for business writing, I avoid the temptation to use UK idiom. It would likely confuse readers more than anything.

    Brad Shorr´s last blog post… Business Goals for 2009

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