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Choosing your English: the choice for new bloggers

Choosing your English: the choice for new bloggers

Duncan Riley> An issue which arises on occasion in my editing of The Blog Herald is my choice of English.
I’ve been told that I am illiterate, cannot spell, have just been plain corrected (Hi ed, typo here, might want to fixed) etc etc.. Now I’m not going to gaol (jail) for these indiscretions, it’s more of a reflection on the origin of this blog (and the occasional person I manage to annoy).

Now I know many readers (well US based ones anyway) will be scratching their heads saying “what the hell is he talking about”. Yes, there is more than one choice in English, and the choice you pursue is an important consideration when starting a blog in a globally diverse Blogosphere.

According to Microsoft Windows’ language settings, there are 13 country specific versions of English, including versions from Australia, Belize, Canada, Caribbean, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, Trinidad, United Kingdom, United States and Zimbabwe. But don’t panic, because the regional variations can be narrowed down to two.

The Commonwealth countries (Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Canada, Caribbean, Ireland (well a Commonwealth country until the 1920’s), Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa, Trinidad and Zimbabwe) basically follow the Queens English (United Kingdom), as do many countries in which English is commonly used but not provided with a separate heading, such as Singapore and Malaysia.

The United States sphere of influence extends to the Philippines and the United States itself. So essentially your style of English can be reduced to English (UK) or American (US). UK English is often referred to as “Global” in some software programs as well.

Still confused? What’s the difference? Cornerstones guide to Canadian English provides some good examples. Most common is the use of “re” instead of “er” (for example, Centre (UK) as opposed to Center (US) which is a pain to remember when html is in English (US)), the use of “s” instead of “z” (customise (UK) v customize (US)), “ce” instead of “se” (Defence (UK) v Defense (US), and a number of other examples which I wont revisit here.

The Blog Herald is essentially written in her Majesty’s English, albeit with an Australian flavour, to a predominately United State based audience, which in itself raises a few extra considerations.

Choosing one flavour/ flavor or mix and match?
From the outset, your choice of English should be considered in the planning of any new blog. Now if your American writing for American’s there isn’t really any choice, English (US) will be your choice of English. However for the rest of the world, its important to consider your target audience:

– Where is your target audience located
– Are you likely to attract international visitors
-Is your content likely to cause confusion due to your choice of English?

These should be considered before you start out. It should be noted that English (UK) writers are far more able to write in English (US) then vice versa (I know to drop the “u” from colour for example when writing in English (US)). This is not to say that US based writers should not consider this as well if targeting a particular audience outside the US. As the editor of the Blog Herald I made one mistake when I started this Blog, and if I were to start over again I would consider changing it, I wrote in English (UK) to an audience that is over 95% US based, and still continue to do so.

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My suggestion therefore would be if writing for an American audience, write in English (US).

If writing for local audiences anywhere outside the US or the Phillipines write in English (UK). Why? because its the best known form of English in non-English speaking countries (many were former English colonies, or wish they had been) and is globally accepted at more outlets than Diners Club English (US).

Then there is the mix and match formula. I tend to write these days in some sort of bizarre mix and match of the two, although strictly speaking the combination tends to work this way:
Commentary, supporting commentary: English (UK)
Direct quotes: English (US)
I keep the original quotes in their original choice of English, which is why you’ll often see the use of “s” and “z” variations in the same post. Does it work? We’ll I dont get as many corrections these days, but then again I’m also not annoying as many people as well (Hi Mena!).

Whether to pursue a choice in English is strictly up to you. You can get away with writing in English (UK) for an English (US) audience, as most are able to understand both, although the occasional person will consider your work shoddy or sub-par. The most important consideration in planning a blog is being comfortable with how and what you write. For 99% of blogs this will be your natural written English. But when thinking big, it’s an important consideration in the blog planning jigsaw puzzle.

View Comments (7)
  • Look, I cant argue with Queens or Kings side in England or elsewhere, but in Australia its always been the “Queens English” since the reign of HM Elizabeth II.

  • I’m scottish, with a master’s degree in english , i teach English as a foreign language. The most important thing with language is communication, that people understand what you say is more important than which particular form is used.

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