English language style guide

Localising UK, US, AU, NZ and CA English

The English language is not only native in the United Kingdom, but it’s also a language that is spoken across different continents around the world. Whilst it’s not an entirely different language altogether, there are localisms and difference between the countries. This becomes especially important when you are writing content because the Client will expect the text to be written in a way that is native and local to the audience they are targeting.

This guide should help you out but remember, always read carefully the instructions given because that will take priority over what is being advised to you in this guide. Also, this guide does not cover everything so when in doubt, use Google and find reliable resources to look up your questions.

Rule of thumb: Always use UK spelling if nothing else is stated.

  • UK English vs US English

    (a.k.a British vs American)

    As a general rule of thumb, British English is considered a little more formal than the English spoken in other countries. Even when it’s spoken in an informal way, the language is not overly personal. Be aware of colloquialisms, many of which are regional. So if you are not certain, it’s better to avoid using them.

    Common Spelling Mistakes

    Spelling mistakes happen because words are actually just spelt differently altogether. One of the most common spelling differences is the use of S vs Z.

    British Spelling American Spelling
    Apologise Apologize
    Recognise Recognize
    Organise Organize

    Another really common spelling difference is words that end in –re in Britain vs ending in -er when spelt in American English. Some examples are:

    British Spelling American Spelling
    Centre Center
    Theatre Theater
    Litre Liter

    Other common spelling differences

    British Spelling American Spelling
    Licence (noun) License
    Defence Defense
    Colour Color
    Favour Favor
    Travelling Traveling
    Fuelling Fueling

    Jargon

    Not only are some words spelt differently, but some words are also entirely different. We have put together a few of the main ones but for a full list, click here.

    British Words American Words
    Trousers Pants
    Post Mail
    Flat Apartment
    Mobile Cell
    Taxi Cab
    Lift Elevator
    Holiday Vacation

    Units of measurement

    Most countries use the Metric system and yet America still uses the old Imperial system.

    Metric Imperial
    Kilograms Pounds
    Metres Feet
    Celsius Fahrenheit
    Kilometres Miles

  • AUS English

    Australian English tends to lean towards British English more but not entirely. The table below are examples where Australian English uses either British or American spelling.

    Australian Spelling “Other” Spelling
    Labor Labour
    Accessorise Accessorize
    Colour Color
    Programme Program
    Inquire Enquire
    Centre Center

    New Zealand English (NZE) tends to be similar to AUS English. You can read more about NZE here.

  • Grammar Differences

    The use of Prepositions

    British American
    athletes play in a team athletes play on a team
    students enrol on a university course students enroll in a course
    towards the river toward the river

    Irregular Verbs

    British American
    Learnt Learned
    Burnt Burned
    Dreamt Dreamed

    Australian English tends to follow the British version.

  • Canadian English

    Canadian English is a mix of both American and British English. If you need to write “Canadianisms” or you just want to read up on the local way/words of Canadians, you can read about it here.

    The below table shows which English way the Canadian prefer.

    Canadian Spelling “Other” Spelling
    Colour Color
    Organize Organise
    Centre Center
    Program Programme
    Practice Practise

    Units of measurement

    Interestingly, Canadians use a mix of different measurements.

    Canadians Other
    Celsius (for weather) Fahrenheit
    Fahrenheit (for cooking) Celsius
    Kilometres Miles
    Pounds Kilograms

     

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