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In relation to my question on Usage of 'z' in the word serialized in English?, it seems I was mistaken in assuming there is a generally accepted correct variant of English.

The question Which variant of English should I use when my target audience is the world? addresses the issue of what to be aware of when writing for a global audience, and the answers focuses mostly on which kind of words and expressions to use (and not use).

I am interested in which grammar to follow when writing for a global audience?

Specifically which rulebook on grammar and which dictionary should I follow?

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I'm voting to migrate this to Writers.SE. Nothing against the question; I just think it'd be a better fit –  simchona Aug 17 '11 at 11:07
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Mine of course! :-) –  T.E.D. Aug 17 '11 at 12:58
    
I think this is too similar to Which variant of English should I use when my target audience is the world?, personally. –  MrHen Aug 17 '11 at 13:14
    
@MrHen: Specifically what I would like to get is links to dictionaries and grammar rules that is recommended to follow. I am not a native English speaker so I do need some references that I can adhere to, and cannot just write in what comes naturally to me. That question does not no address this. –  bjarkef Aug 17 '11 at 13:35
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migrated from english.stackexchange.com Aug 17 '11 at 13:29

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Since there is no global English, most people addressing a global audience adopt one of two conventions:

Either just write it using the spellings & grammar that you are most familiar and comfortable with. As pointed out, most people using other dialects of English will understand.

Or produce two versions, one in Commonwealth (British) English, and one in American English. This is the approach usually taken if what you're writing is going to be translated into a series of other languages.

A third option, which also serves as a good thing to aim for if adopting the first approach, is to avoid any (or as many as possible) words or phrases that are treated differently by the different versions of English - but this is usually very hard to achieve and can result in using some forms of wording that don't sit particularly well in any variant of the language.

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Do you have any examples of people (other than publishers translating children's books into "American" or "British") who do this? Aside from children's books, I have never heard of this practice, and it seems a lot of work to go to when the two different dialects are mutually comprehensible. –  Peter Shor Aug 17 '11 at 11:50
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@Peter Shor I was mainly thinking of software, and the associated documentation, help files, etc. (The OP didn't limit the scope of the question to documents or books). For example in the Google Chrome browser the advanced settings are referred to as "under the hood" in American English and "under the bonnet" in British English. Microsoft's website uses en-gb or en-us in the URL to distinguish the two (although admittedly this is more about physical location than which language to use, but one determines the other to some extent) –  Waggers Aug 17 '11 at 11:59
    
I would say, use either one but be consistent. Only really big-budget books (like Harry Potter) produce different versions for US and UK, changing colour to color and so on. –  GEdgar Aug 17 '11 at 12:54
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@GEdgar: frankly, I hate this practice. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 21 '11 at 0:13
    
@JürgenA.Erhard - Agreed. I always find it a little insulting that publishers assume that Americans will be befuddled by regionalisms. –  Neil Fein Feb 15 '12 at 6:28
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Native speakers of English tend on the whole to write in the "written standard" of their native variety of English.

Speakers of different varieties, or at least those who are "well read", are generally used to reading material in other varieties, and the difference between the written

So I would suggest just picking the variety you're most familiar with and aiming towards the written standard of native speakers in that variety. If you need it, try and find a comprehensive reference grammar that deals with your chosen variety. (If you're already proficient in English, I would also suggest just getting a well-educated native speaker to proofread the first draft of your writing, and using tools such as Google searches, Google N-grams: a "grammar book" often isn't these days the most efficient means of resolving uncertainties.)

There are still some issues that are just preferences. For example, in UK English, whether you use "-ise" or "-ize" is essentially an editorial preference: both are perfectly acceptable and readers are used to seeing both, and you or your publisher just needs to decide one way or the other.

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My problem is that I am not a native English speaker, so I cannot just write in what comes naturally to me. I need the support of grammar rules and a dictionary that I can look up things in. –  bjarkef Aug 17 '11 at 13:36
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I think it depends what you're writing. If you're writing fiction, you need to make choices based on the setting of your story, the identity you've established for your narrator, etc. Your characters will obviously speak with the idioms of their culture, and your narrative voice will probably be rooted in a specific tradition as well.

If you're writing non-fiction, I'd look at the dominant dialects used in your target market. I'm hard-pressed to think of any piece of writing that is aimed at the entire world. So analyze your target market. What are they used to reading? What will they best understand? How are the popular/dominant works in that field currently written?

I sense that you want something more concrete, though. The North American market is huge, and due to the American media presence, it's familiar to most literate people of the world. You could use CMOS (The Chicago Manual of Style) if you want something firm and straightforward.

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Seconding Kate's suggestion of the Chicago Manual of Style, and I'd also add Strunk & White's Elements of Style as another indispensable reference.

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Most often, you write according to your background. If you are American, you write using American English and if you are British, you use Brit. This is usually applicable for novels and other long material. This was the method used by old writers like Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. If you book is really popular your publisher may make conversions to make it more readable in a particular area.

If you are writing for a magazine or similar source which would be marketed in a particular area say the US, then it would make sense to target the English spoken in the target area.

Hope it helps.

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The question is specifically looking for a manual of style to follow - the rulebook for each given English. –  justkt Aug 18 '11 at 13:41
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