Continuing on from my last tip, here are some more differences between UK and US English. Please remember, neither version is ‘wrong’. They are just different.
The important thing to keep in mind is that when you’re writing, choose one version and stick to it.
Different spelling, same pronunciation
Defense (noun form)
Same concept with different terms
Hire a car
Rent a car
Using collective nouns
Use either singular or plural verb
My team are all here ready for the meeting.
My team is sitting down.
Always use singular verb
My team is here ready for the meeting.
Use of ‘needn’t’
You needn’t come to the meeting if you are busy.
You don’t need to come to the meeting if you are busy.
You don’t need to come to the meeting if you are busy.
Preposition use with educational institutions
She studied business at university.
She studied business in university.
Use to and from
This answer is different from/to what I was expecting.
Use from and than
This answer is different from/than what I was expecting.
After a comment on my blog earlier this week, I felt it was worth addressing, albeit briefly, some of the major differences between UK and US English. There are, of course, other variations (Australian English, Indian English …) and they are all legitimate forms of the language. English changes. It adapts. It borrows and shifts. New words are added, words change meaning. So when you see ‘organise’ where you expect to see ‘organize’ or ‘centre’ where you are used to ‘center’ remember that different people use the language differently.
(For those of you who are interested, this photo is one I took in Cornwall, UK, some years ago.)
Anyway, here are some of the major differences (I’ll give you some more next time!).
||Travel -Travelling/travelledCancel – cancelling/cancelled
||Travel – traveling/traveledCancel – canceling/canceled
||Do up a room, etc. (redecorate or renovate)This building looks great now that it has been done up.
||Do over a room, etc.i.e. This building looks great now that it has been done over.
|Definite article use
||Three people were taken to hospital.
||Three people were taken to the hospital.
|Have vs take
||Have a bathHave a shower
Have a break
Have a holiday
|Take a bathTake a shower
Take a break
Take a vacation
|Present perfect use
||Present perfect is used with just, already and yetI’m not hungry. I’ve just had lunch.
What time is Mark leaving? He has already left.
Have you finished your work yet?
|Use either present perfect or past simpleI’m not hungry. I’ve just had lunch. OR I just had lunch.
What time is Mark leaving? He has already left. OR He already left.
Have you finished your work yet? OR Did you finish your work yet?
||Burn – burned or burntSpell – spelled or spelt
Get – got (Your English has got much better.)
|Burn – burnedSpell – spelled
Get – gotten (Your English has gotten much better.)
|Get on vs get along
|Get on = progressHow are you getting on with that task?
Get on (with somebody)
I get on really well with the new boss.
|Get on ≠ progressGet along (with somebody)
I get along really well with the new boss.
My business writing tip books are available free from the Amazon Kindle store on 15 September. Remember, Amazon works on US time! You don’t need a Kindle to read them. You can get a free Kindle app for many devices now.
Happy reading and writing.
I’m feeling a little frivolous today. A little indulgent. So today I’m going to share some examples of English gone slightly wrong …
A headline from the pages of The Gulf News: “Innovative managers learn themselves”
A notice from the Abu Dhabi Municipality posted in The Khaleej Times: “Wrongly parked vehicle hurdle the work to collect the garbage from site by the special garbage collecting trucks.”
More from The Gulf News: “Law to check callous pedestrians proposed” – the article proceeded to talk about “careless” pedestrians. Let’s hope they got a new subeditor!
And an advertisement for an automated attendance recording system:
You may get sick of me talking about using plain English, but it is important. Consider how many people you talk to or write to who aren’t native English speakers.
Have you heard of the KISS principle? Originally KISS stood for ‘Keep it Simple, Stupid!’, but I prefer ‘Keep it simple and straightforward’.
Here’s a list of 25 expressions that are commonly used and suggestions on how to express them in plain English.
|with the exception of
|with reference to
|until such time as
|is authorised to
|is applicable to
|in the near future
|in the event of
|in the amount of
||amounting to, for
|in relation to
||about, to, with
|in regard to
||about, concerning, on
|in order to
|in order that
|in lieu of
|in close proximity
||also, besides, too
|in a timely manner
||on time, promptly
|for a period of
|during the period of
|due to the fact that
||because, due to, since
|at the present time
|as a means of
|an appreciable number of
|afford an opportunity
|a number of
Sometimes, particularly when you’re under pressure, you may not be able to put your finger on the words you need for the report or letter you are writing. Today’s tip includes some lists to help you out.
Remember, a summary is particularly important in a long document. Repeat the points you want people to remember.
- In a word …
- In short …
- On balance …
- To sum up …
Often you will need to provide different options and describe each of them. You can use:
- Not only … but also …
- For one thing … For another …
- Either …or …
- Neither … nor … (negative alternative)
Sometimes we need to generalise or make broad statements about information, pulling together, for example, principles from a range of cases. To do this you can use:
- Generally speaking …
- By and large …
- All told …
- All things considered …
It’s not always possible to use accurate figures. Sometimes you want to give a ‘ballpark’ figure or estimation.
- Roughly speaking …
- About …
- Around …
- In the region of …
More expressions coming soon to a blog near you 🙂