“Two nations divided by a common language”
March 21, 2015
“Two nations divided by a common language” has been attributed to Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill.
I’m not sure who was guilty of first saying this but the concept plagues me today.
The most frequent negative comments I get on my website are about spelling and grammar.
Yes, I sometimes make mistakes, particularly when posting from a mobile device with predictive text – these machines have minds of their own.
But my spelling isn’t always wrong .. but still I get comments.
The problem is that there isn’t one standard way to spell words like colour .. or is that color. It depends where you live and the form of English you use.
So when writing for your audience you have to make choices about the spelling and grammar conventions to be used. And don’t think it is easy just because you write for a home audience.
Here in the UK there are debates about grammar. For example do you agree with the Oxford comma, i.e. using a comma just before the final “and” or “or” in a series of words. “Is it ham, egg and chips” or “ham, egg, and chips”
And if that one was easy how about Selfridges, Marks and Spencers, or should it be Sefridges and Marks and Spencers. Are we talking about two businesses or three? Missing out an “and” changes the number of businesses to two .. but it sort of looks wrong and clumsy.
My Spelling Dilemma
When I came up with the concept for my last book, Creating Business Growth, the Oxford comma was the least of my worries. We had contributors from the UK, US, Malta, Canada, NZ and beyond; all had English as a mother tongue and all had different spelling an grammar conventions.
We even had different stylistic conventions. Should you put a row of asterisks between paragraphs or not?
I came up with a solution. I let everyone use their own conventions. The rationale was simple. This was a book written by international contributors and for an international audience, so I let them write for their audience.
The result. A best seller on no fewer than nine Amazon websites and only one comment about spelling .. from someone whose spelling didn’t agree with mine!
I’ve just recorded an interview with Ian Brodie, a contributor to the book and long term friend, on using books as a very successful marketing device. I’ll post it on this site soon .. look out for it.
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