Re: UK/US English

Subject: Re: UK/US English
From: Judyth Mermelstein <Judyth_Mermelstein -at- BABYLON -dot- MONTREAL -dot- QC -dot- CA>
Date: Sun, 9 May 1999 21:29:13 GMT

Technical Writers List; f,TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU,Internet writes:
Scott Browne asked:
>>... should the docs use US English spellings, or should it use the same UK
>>English spellings which the user will actually see on the interface?>

and George Hayhoe (george -at- ghayhoe -dot- com) replied:
>I generally agree with the earlier responders that the
>documentation should match what the users will see on the
>screen. As Matt Ion alluded, most members of the US audience
>will be sophisticated enough to recognize an occasional
>British spelling and not be distracted by it.

I would agree with the general principle--after all, that is
why people do localized US and UK versions. However, if
most Americans wouldn't be distracted by "an occasional
British spelling", it would be because they don't read well
enough to care about spelling and wouldn't know a UK spelling
if it bit them, not because they want documentation that it
internally inconsistent! I suspect most readers WOULD notice
that something looked funny and might well attribute it to
bad spelling on your part. Also, I suspect we're glossing over
a bigger potential problem--many expressions and idioms do not
travel well, so your documents may also contain sources of
confusion of the "suspenders vs. braces" variety.

My own feeling is that if you are not localizing the software,
there isn't much point in localizing the documentation. However,
it would be only courteous to say so at the beginning of the
documents and let readers know what to expect. Something like:

"This software was created in Great Britain and follows
British spelling conventions. The American equivalents are shown
in parentheses where terms are likely to cause confusion. This
has not been done for words "flavour" and "organisation" where
the difference is purely a matter of spelling."

would probably be enough. Unfortunately, an example of the
kind of term you would need to translate does not spring to mind
but you could probably spot such items on the interface itself.
What does occur to me is to watch out for "presently"--it still
means "soon" rather than "now" in the UK.

>But perhaps this is a good opportunity for some usability
>testing with potential American users. That would be an
>excellent way to determine user responses to the interface
>with British spellings and could provide compelling
>arguments for changes in the next release.

That's probably a good idea, although I suspect that a company
unwilling to spend a few bucks on editing the interface and
documents to a US version will not be eager to pay for
the testing or any future changes.



From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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