Just which English are we talking about anyway?

If you are reading this, you can obviously read English. Chances are, despite whether English is your first language or not, you can probably speak it too, right? Yes, I know, I should have been a detective - but I digress. So, what about writing English? It seems a rather straightforward question until you ask - just which English are we talking about anyway? You may not have given this much thought but, of course, there are different flavours of English to choose from. There's British English, American English, Canadian English, Australian English, and so on. For every day use, it probably doesn't matter one way or another but as a writer, and especially in today's global world, when you sit down to write something that you hope to one day publish, the choice of English to write in becomes a very real and necessary consideration.

It's not just a matter of some minor spelling differences either - color versus colour, for example, or authorize versus authorise, and so on. For a given context, different words altogether may be appropriate. A British spanner becomes an American wrench, for example, and a cupboard becomes a closet by the time you've crossed the pond. As if that wasn't bad enough, there are also idioms and turns of phrases that vary from dialect to dialect. You might take something with a grain of salt in an English speaking country, but with a pinch of salt in another. You could be accused of being a fuss-pot or an insufferable know-if-all, again, depending on which variant of English you subscribe to.

Once you've decided which variant to go with, it's still not plain sailing (or a walk in the park). The next hurdle may be confronted by how you choose to put the words down. If you're old-school, and prefer to put pen to paper, life is perhaps a little less complicated. If, on the other hand, you use a computer to write with, then you have to contend with the default proofing language used by whatever software you're using. Whether it be a specialised piece of software like Scrivener, which I use, or a word processor like MS-Word or just using a browser to add an entry to a web-site CMS, which is what I'm doing at this very minute, you still have to let the software know which language you are using. If you have some form of auto-correct working, you may find that the software is silently correcting things for you in the wrong language, and that can lead to inconsistencies - especially as you swap from using one program (or programme) to another. This problem is compounded if, like me, you write on multiple devices, as you then have to make sure that the language of choice is configured consistently between them as well.

Whether English is a first language or not, it pays to give some thought to the proofing that you apply to anything you want to publish. Otherwise, you could find your writing is like a mad woman's breakfast (or all over the place).

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