Re: Writing International English (was Writing British English)

Subject: Re: Writing International English (was Writing British English)
From: Sandra Charker <schark -at- MSP -dot- MASTERPACK -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 16:46:35 +1000

<soapbox>

I've just read the whole of this thread after a discussion with one of the
developers in my department. He was born in South Africa, went to high
school in Australia, and returned here last week after 2 years in the US,
where he wrote some documentation in English that became noticeably
different from the documentation that was written here. That's a consistency
problem that I'm painfully correcting, but it's only part of the problem
that we face in writing for an international audience.

I don't think there's much doubt that a new variety of written English is
emerging which we might as well call International English (at least until
it can be called Federation Standard). It's much closer to American English
than to British English, but it's not the same as either and it's less
stable than either.

I document software, but my audience is end users working in distribution,
logistics, and finance in Australia, the UK, the US, and several
English-speaking countries in Asia. "International English" does not provide
a vocabulary in those fields that is common to all my users, even if some
sections of them are willing to accept the spelling and grammatical
conventions of other sections. If I don't translate between Englishes, then
I force my users to translate their industry-terminology at the same time as
they are grappling with understanding our software. Many of them can do
that, but it's an extra burden on them and I can't afford not to worry about
the ones who can't.

One reason that most of us here are reasonably comfortably with US English
is that most software is written first for a domestic US audience, then
exported. If we refuse to adapt to US English, we severely limit our
personal choice of software available. But it's a copout to assume that
users outside the US automatically understand and are happy to use US
English when they're working with software that they didn't choose and have
no particular interest in using.

</soapbox>

Sandra Charker

Speaking for myself and only myself in no official capacity whatsoever.

Sandra Charker,
Masterpack International (McNamee Sutton & Partners)
email: schark -at- masterpack -dot- com -dot- au
PH: +61 2 9937 1427 FAX: +61 2 9937 1388
Level 2, 18-20 Orion Road, LANE COVE NSW 2066, AUSTRALIA


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