Business Writing Tip #80—UK versus US English—Part Two

Continuing on from my last tip, here are some more differences between UK and US stormy UK day (1024x686)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.


  British (UK) American
Different spelling, same pronunciation


Defense (noun form)
Same concept with different terms
Hire a car
Hire purchase
Estate car
Car boot
Goods train
Bank holiday
Rent a car
Installment plan
Station wagon
Car trunk
Two weeks
Freight train
Public holiday
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.

Business Writing Tip #79—UK versus US English—Part One

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.

somewhere in Cornwall low res (800x536)

(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!).

  British (UK) American (US)
Spelling Travel -Travelling/travelledCancel – cancelling/cancelled Travel – traveling/traveledCancel – canceling/canceled
Preposition use 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?

Past participles 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.


Feeling Frivolous

Dear all,

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: no more buddy punching





Business Writing Tip #77—More on Plain Words

Auguste Rodin-The Kiss-Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek-Copenhagen
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 except
with reference to about
until such time as until
time period period, time
is authorised to can, may
is applicable to applies to
in the near future shortly, soon
in the event of if
in the amount of amounting to, for
in relation to about, to, with
in regard to about, concerning, on
in order to to
in order that so
in lieu of instead of
in close proximity near
in addition also, besides, too
in a timely manner on time, promptly
for a period of for
during the period of during
due to the fact that because, due to, since
at the present time now
as a means of to
an appreciable number of many
afford an opportunity allow, let
a number of some, many


Business Writing Tip #76—Useful Expressions for Your Business Writing (Part 1)

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 …

Giving Alternatives

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.ballpark figure

  • Roughly speaking …
  • About …
  • Around …
  • In the region of …




More expressions coming soon to a blog near you 🙂