We’re living in a global community and with just a few clicks of the keyboard we can easily communicate with people located at the other side of the world. This has done wonders for trade, tourism and international relations, but for businesses operating on the global market it can also present a challenge.
Companies in the UK will obviously operate and trade using English as their main language. And given that major nations across the globe speak and write in the same tongue it can make life a lot easier. This means that firms, particularly those just starting up, do not have to worry about language barriers. There are still different time zones to consider, but being able to email, create a website, hold telephone conversations and agree deals in their mother tongue takes away at least one of the complications of operating a global business.
But this does not mean there are no challenges when using English. Americanisms and colloquialisms creep in to our daily language all the time. Although these are not necessarily damaging or problematic, they can make it difficult to communicate with those for whom English is not their first language.
All this means that UK businesses should take care to avoid common mistakes and ensure their messages are clear and simple no matter where in the world they are being read.
Below are the top 10 most common Americanised spelling and grammar mistakes that can creep into written English, so try to avoid them.
Which and That
That is a restrictive pronoun and it is vital to the noun to which it refers. For example: “I don’t buy products that aren’t organic.”
Which introduces a relative clause and allows qualifiers that may not be essential. For example: “I recommend you buy organic products, which are available in most supermarkets.”
Lay and Lie
Lay is a transitive verb and requires a direct subject and one or more objects. The present tense is lay and the past is laid.
Lie is an intransitive verb and needs no object. Its present tense is lie and its past tense is lay.
For example, do not say: “I laid on the bed”, but: “I lay on the bed.”
Colour and color
Colour is the UK English spelling, color is the US English spelling. There are many other examples of slight spelling variations.
Adviser and Advisor
The two versions are interchangeable, but many Brits will prefer adviser, whereas Americans are more likely to use advisor as the default.
Pick one and stick with it.
Licence and License
Licence is a nown, eg driving licence. To license is a verb, eg the licensing department.
The US convention is to use license for both.
Defence and Defense
Defense is the preferred American English spelling and defence is the British English spelling. But defensive, defensively and defensiveness always use the s.
Fewer and Less
This is a common bugbear and the most common examples are those signs in the supermarket stating: “10 items or less”. They should say: “10 items or fewer”.
Less is for hypothetical quantities, like saying: “The firm is less successful now.” Few and fewer are for things you can quantify, such as items in a basket.
Disinterested and Uninterested
Contrary to popular usage, these words aren’t synonymous. A “disinterested” person is someone who’s impartial. For example, a hedge fund manager might take interest in a headline regarding the performance of a popular stock, even if he’s never invested in it. He’s “disinterested,” i.e., he doesn’t seek to gain financially from the transaction he’s witnessed. Judges and referees are supposed to be “disinterested.” If the sentence you’re using implies someone who couldn’t care less, chances are you’ll want to use “uninterested.
Different Than and Different From
Different is an adjective used to draw distinction. When followed by a preposition it should be different from, as with away from. Different than may be more appropriate in some situations, such as: “Development is different in London than in Tokyo.”
That or Who
People should be referred to as who, not that. So: Michael is the one who always forgets his glasses, not the one that always forgets his glasses.