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Watch Your Language

Do you write for readers in your own country, or for the world at large?

You have TARGETED your potential customers haven't you?

I don't intend going into this extremely important topic on this page. I will say however that if you haven't put in the effort to find out WHO your potential customers ARE then most of your copywriting efforts will be wasted.

Getting back to my opening comment.....

I live in the UK and most of us here think that English is a universal language.

Right - and Wrong!

American English for instance is a lot different to English English. Much more than many people realize.

And Canadian English is in some cases, closer to English English than to American English.

Australian English is, I believe, very close to New Zealand English.

And they are both almost as English as English English.

What AM I talking about?

Gibberish English probably!

Just Be Careful.

I spend a lot of time on the telephone to clients and friends I have made in the USA and in Canada. And in just about EVERY conversation I have there is a misunderstanding caused by the language.

The other day I used the word *Fortnight* to someone in New York. It's an everyday word - not slang - used in the UK meaning *two weeks*. But she didn't understand me.

So if I were to say to you that my newsletter 'The Copywriters' Digest' will be published every Fortnight instead of weekly, some of you would not have understood.

A friend in Canada said *Dumber-down* to me. I had to ask for a translation.

In fact I have to admit that in nearly every transatlantic conversation I have, I find myself constantly asking whether they understand me.

But you can't ask your readers that in your copy!

Queen Victoria must be turning in her grave! I'm BRITISH for heaven's sake! Why should I have to justify my use of the Queen's English to FOREIGNERS? Don't they realize that we used to rule half the world?

And if that's YOUR attitude toward your readers, regardless of your country of origin, you're in trouble. Big trouble.

I know of a very popular UK Internet marketer who clearly states on his Website that he uses the QUEEN'S ENGLISH (English English) Yet he has also mentioned in his Newsletters that only 3% of his customers live in the UK!

He has a great site and an even better newsletter. But I think his policy is a mistake. The glorious days of the British Empire are, quite rightly, long gone.

And if you are American, don't assume that your foreign readers are as familiar with the American way of life as you are. They have a mouse and they'll use it.

You're Customers' Must Come First

English spelling is different. And I use American spelling on the Internet for a good reason - though sometimes I do slip up. (There I go Justifying again!)

It's because English people in the main can identify COLOR as COLOUR......


But I find that many Americans' regard HUMOUR as a typo. And that reflects on my credibility as a professional writer.

And TYPO isn't a widely used word outside of North America.

So if you live outside the USA and you're potential target is Americans, I think it makes sense for you to use American spelling don't you?

But it's the WORDS we use that can cause problems. Especially on the 'Net where we deliberately write in a me-to-you fashion.

For instance, references to national politicians or football stars are totally meaningless to us foreigners.

A BANG in the UK is a loud noise. In North America it can mean something entirely different

If you pat someone on the FANNY in the US it may be regarded as a friendly gesture. In the UK it means touching someone on a much more intimate part of the female anatomy. And a possible jail sentence!

We All Like A Joke But....

Humor is vastly different from country to country.

And the vast majority of American humour - sorry humor - on the Web goes straight over the heads of non US citizens.

And I don't just mean people in the UK.

There are millions of English speaking people around the world using the Internet. And their numbers are growing at an explosive rate.

And millions of them learn ENGLISH English

So if your target market includes people outside the USA make sure EVERY ONE of your readers can understand you.

Even if it's only 5% that's a potential 5% of your market that could be missed!

Let's face it. I think you would find it worthwhile if ANY simple exercise increased your traffic by that amount!

Copyright 2003 by Joe Robson * All rights reserved

Joe Robson is co-author of 'Make Your Words SELL' with Ken Evoy. Joe and Tom Glander own The Newbie Club which is bulging with unique NET and PC Newbie tutorials and eBooks. CLICK ON OVER to and look at their very professional Affiliate Program. It's BIG! Joe's Copywriting site is at


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