Writing Colourful English

If you are a writer, anything you can do to improve your writing will give you opportunity for more jobs—increasing your income. One way to become the best content writer possible is to expand your ability to create content for those in countries other than your own. While you may never learn enough to be able to create content in other languages, one thing you can do is learn the difference in how English is presented in other countries. One of the simplest ways you can increase your marketability as a content writer is to learn the differences between American and British English. While covering every possible difference is outside the scope of this article, these simple tips will help you get started writing “colourful” English.

  • The British use the present perfect tense (have or has plus past participial) far more often than they use the simple past tense. For example, in American English you would probably write “The dog feels sick. She ate too much.” However, if you were writing for a British audience you may write “The dog feels sick. She has eaten too much.”
  • The verbs have, take, make, go, do and give are used far more often in a delexical sense. Essentially, this allows these simple verbs to take on their meaning based on the nouns they are used in. In American English you would most commonly write: “She kissed the kids and put them to bed” while in British English it would more commonly be written: “She gave the kids a kiss and put them to bed.” While both are technically correct in British and American English, it is a pattern you will find that can give your British writing more authenticity.
  • Many words are spelled differently in British English and American English. Most of us immediately think of the words color (colour) and theater (theatre) as examples of this. However, once you get started, you will realize there are many other places where this is the case. The easiest way to make certain you “Britishize” your writing is to use a word processing program that handles multiple languages. For instance, in Microsoft Word 2010 there is a button in the bottom toolbar that lists the language in which you are currently writing. Click this button and you can change to British English, Australian English or other language options as well. Doing this will make certain you do not let any American spellings slip by.

Writing for a British audience is not that difficult once you understand the small differences. Take the time to learn what your client expects and create content that will be easily understood by a global audience. Once you have the hang of it, you will become the best content writer you can be and increase your ability to write for clients around the world.

Tracy S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.

1 Comment

  • Andrew Kelly says:

    I must say that you have written on quite a unique topic. While the difference between American and British dialect is known to everyone, I was not able to find much about the difference between written American English and British English. Thanks for the great tips.

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