Okay, you’re ready to take your EMEA brand across the big blue to the US. So what does that mean for your content?
Dot your I’s, Cross your T’s and discard the Z’s
Have you ever wondered why there are minor changes in the English spelling of words in the UK and US?
It’s down to one man: Noah Webster.
Yep, the very same one who wrote Webster’s Dictionary! He basically wanted to separate the US from its UK heritage, and not just from a political standpoint. Webster introduced changes including, the reversal of the “re” in words like “centre” to form “center”.
Webster also takes credit for changing US endings from “ise” to “ize” and removing the “u” from words like “colour” and “neighbour” to make “color” and “neighbor”.
What Noah didn’t realise at the time was that he’d be making your life a misery, almost 250 years later! So make sure your proofreading is spot on!
“I have broken your vase” or “I broke your vase”
Let’s move on from that fact that vase and vase are pronounced completely differently, depending on what side of the pond you’re from. For readability purposes, it should be noted that US English grammar frequently varies from UK grammar.
Depending on your audience, you may be writing for both US and UK English audiences (remember that quite of a lot of global English is taught with a UK grammar style or a US version depending on the region!). If perfecting your past and present tense isn’t your forte, referring to a grammar website like Grammarly is recommended (and full of fun facts!)
You say tomato, I say, er, tomato?
Just like “vase” and “vase”, readers from different geographic locations may pronounce words in such a different way that they lose your message. If you choose idioms and colloquialisms that rely on pronunciation and rhyming to make sense, global readers might miss out on your message.
A few unknown examples of this are on an Oxford Dictionary blog.
Let’s assume it doesn’t translate
Using a translated version of copy that was originally created in a foreign language presents huge red flags for potential buyers. It’s fairly easy to spot content that’s written by someone who is not 100% fluent.
It can take a long time and a ton of research into cultural references to fully understand (and write like it!). The danger is that the copy will be awkward and unnatural.
Forced translation isn’t worth a penny, so avoid wasting yours on it!
King’s Landing Pages? Um, no.
Okay, I’m busted! I love Game of Thrones and have been trying through the whole season to mash a GOT phrase into my blog.
The result here… well, isn’t my best work…
But it highlights a key point in writing: Avoid mash ups that don’t really make sense or the oh-so-subtle meaning may get lost on your audience.
Instead focus on clear, concise messages that work across a range of cultures. The concept of mash ups is extremely popular right now so, by all means, use it! Just be sure it works – find a good test audience to help with this.
Finally, not all North American audiences will struggle with UK idioms. Canadian English often has its own terminology (ever had a poutine?!) and is influenced by both UK and US English. Ultimately the answer is always the same: know your audience! Keep it simple and find a test audience that contains native speakers.
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