Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing for the American vs. the British market

From day one of my first writing job in America, I got warned that the head of the department was wary of me because I was British. This wasn't a concern that I'd switch coffee for tea in the break room, or force my colleagues to wear tweed. He was worried that a fresh-off-the-boat Brit wouldn't be able to handle writing "American."

And I like to think I proved him wrong - but it wasn't easy. George Bernard Shaw once claimed that America and Britain were two nations "divided by a common language" and he's not wrong. British English and American English are remarkably dissimilar in a lot of ways.

As I explained here, I actually think American English is a lot more consistent and logical that archaic British English, but the differences go far deeper than just spelling. What exactly do I mean? Well, look at the example I've produced below. It perhaps illustrates the most significant difference between the way Americans and Brits communicate using the written word:

What differences do you notice between British English and American English?


Susanne said...

ha! Great signs!I like stuff like this and it's interesting to read your views since you have experienced both countries.

Dan D. said...

The American sign still has too many words... ;)

Expat mum said...

In general I agree with you about the American signs being less fussy and wordy, but there's a sign in the next street from me in Chicago against dog poop which begins "No person shall fail to remove...."). As archaic sounding as anything you'd find in the UK. What's wrong with "Pick Up Your Dog Doo-doo."?