Re: Writing British English

Subject: Re: Writing British English
From: Eugene Gross <eugeneg -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 10:44:46 -0500

At 08:21 PM 11/7/96 -0500, Joy Switzer wrote:

Dear Tech Writers
We recently added British English as a new language. We hired a new writer
in our office over the Atlantic specifically for this purpose. [snip] The
only real thing that I found were several spelling differences. I also
found that the writing style was not as clear and concise as I try to make
mine. [snip] If there is a REAL need, is the spelling differences the only
difference in these two types of writings.

It seems to me that you are overlooking the most important component in
this equation. Beyond the spelling, or even stylistic, subtleties you found
in the "British version," I think that you should be more concerned with
cultural differences.

For example, Iain Harrison in another messages pointed out issues regarding
dates formats that may be more crucial to the success of a product in an
international market that if you write "color" or "colour", or if you say
"Press the xxx key to..." instead of "The user presses the xxx key to...".

What I think is more worrisome (in general, since I don't know how your
company operates in this regard) is the lack of consideration of cultural
differences at the software design stage where icons that are only symbolic
to an US user, field names long enough to fit only one short American
English word, formatting rules that do not count on other preferences or
uses (dates, currencies, decimal separator, addresses, etc.) present the
localizer, and ultimately the final users, with a product that is --at
best-- difficult to understand and to use.

>Also, if you know of any books or other resources that I may refer to on this
>subject I would really appreciate it you could share them with me.

There are several books out on localization, globalization and
internationalization of software. A good start can be "Developing
International Software for Windows 95 and Windows NT" by Nadine Kano (ISBN
1-55615-840-8, Microsoft Press, 1995).

Also, the STC has an International Technical Communication Professional
Interest Group where all these topics are regularly treated. One of the
senior members, Nancy Hoft, presents a two-day seminar on "Preparing
World-Ready Information Products" around this time (I think I saw a post a
week or two ago on this subject) in Atlanta.

Eugene P. Gross Voice: +1 215-757-1214
eugeneg -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com FAX: +1 215-757-7778
Technical Spanish translations and localization services

ENDLESS LOOP: (noun) see "endless loop."

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