American English vs. British and Australian English
There’s an old joke that Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language.
And if you’ve ever written for English speaking clients outside your home country, you know exactly what that means.
Sally Bagshaw takes on this copywriting challenge with a quick look at some of the differences between American English and British / Australian English. (This post gave my spellcheck a heart attack.)
I was chatting to Dean via email the other day, and happened to mention that I would send another guest post through in a fortnight.
Little did I realise that comment would send off a chain of belly laughs from across the Pacific.
“Erm yes, you know in two weeks?”
“Oh we don’t really use that word around here.”
I know Australians spell some words differently than our American counterparts. After all you can choose from a number of English options for your spell-check.
But did you know that there are a whole heap of differences between British/Australian English and American English that we all should be aware of?
Here are just 3 of them:
1. Same word — different spelling
I live in the land of extra vowels. We like our colours, ask our mates (friends) for favours, and will bank a cheque (check).
We also like using ‘s’ instead of ‘z’ for words like optimise, organisation and analyse.
2. Different words for the same object
Depending on where you are, a zucchini can also be a courgette, a pepper is really a capsicum, and coriander is known as cilantro.
What I would call a dummy, my American friends would call a pacifier, and when I talk about pants (trousers) my British friends think I’m talking about underwear.
3. Different measurements
Inches and miles mean nothing to someone who has grown up with centimetres and kilometres — and how do you know if a pound of chocolate will be enough when you are used to kilograms?
What this means for you as a copywriter
Words are our income, so it’s important that as a copywriter you are aware of the English language differences out there. It is a global market after all, and even if your clients are all local, their clients may be scattered around the world.
Keep in mind the following:
- If you are writing for an international audience, ask your client which spelling they prefer to use so that your copy is consistent with their existing material.
- Don’t use local colloquialisms and slang if it will confuse the reader.
- Provide measurement conversions for sizes and weights.
- Make sure you stipulate in your quote which spelling you’ll use for the project.
Finally, let prospective clients know that you understand the nuances of the English language. It may help you secure your next project.
If you want to dive into this further, here’s a page with more differences between American and British English.
Have you ever had to write for an audience in a different country? Share you experience below.
Sally Bagshaw is an Australian copywriter who uses ‘fortnight’ as part of her everyday vernacular, bought nappies for her kids, and didn’t realise that coriander was called cilantro in the US.