British English vs American English – Differences Illustrated
Given the vast areas of the world where English is used, there are bound to be differences that emerge. There are so many similarities between the two versions of the language however, that we don’t always notice the different nuances and understand the subtle differences in the different meaning of words used. And depending on the audience, sometimes that can matter. A lot. So be aware of spelling, grammar and culture when communicating abroad.
Take humour or humor, colour or color. The British spelling was adopted from the French language. The American spelling of these words came from simplifying the language at a later date.
This effects even grammar.
In UK English, the past tense will be used as:
- I’ve just had a cup of tea.
- I’ve already eaten.
With the US version, the past tense will be used as:
- I just had a cup of tea.
- I already ate.
When it comes to international business communication, knowing your client’s target audience, where the majority of their business comes from, is key.
Your client might be based in Germany, but when their business is concentrated on the Japanese market, that’s a whole different way of communicating. When it comes to Dutch customers, even though English is widely used in the Netherlands, there are those that prefer UK above US English.
Going to communicate abroad? Understanding your client’s voice, brand and where their customers are located is tantamount in delivering clear and concise inter-cultural copywriting.
Download the Checklist for Successful Communication across the border here: 5 tips for successful international business communication
Nadine – expat, cultural and technical copywriter