British English or American English: Localisation Checklist
Use this localisation checklist to help you expand your reach, outside of your territory and possibly on the other side of the planet.
You want your new clients to feel comfortable on your site. The chances are you can’t afford to localise into their language, so you’ve opted for English.
But, have you thought about which English? Yes, there are many versions of English!
Which English is spoken where?
“Approximately 360 – 400 million people speak English as their first language!”
Well, apart from the obvious – Americans speak American English, Canadians speak Canadian English and Brits speak British English – to mention but a few of the countries that form the Anglosphere, there are still the second-language speakers of English to consider. At a global level, they now far outnumber native speakers of English!
“It is estimated that between 470 million to 1 billion people speak English as a second language!”
Most countries where English is an official language will have opted for one of the two main versions – British or American – a decision often born out of the country’s history. In some countries, a decision taken by the education authority will have been the deciding factor.
In terms of sheer numbers, American English is the most commonly used English for web searches on Google and other search engines. So if you can only afford one English version of your site, and you’re not specifically selling to the UK, opt for American English.
Why using the right English matters?
Using the right English vocabulary puts your potential customers at ease and helps with conversion rates.
Here’s a checklist of words that appear on sales and checkout pages. Try to speak the right English to your clients on either side of the Atlantic.
CART vs SHOPPING BAG
In the US you have carts at the supermarket, whereas in the UK we have have trolleys.
US sites use Shopping Cart – UK sites use Shopping Bag
SHIPPNG vs DELIVERY
In the UK, we only ship things via sea, so your average online purchase will be delivered.
US sites use Shipping Address – UK sites use Delivery Address
CELL vs MOBILE
The Americans have cell phones and the Brits have mobile phones.
US sites use Cell Number – UK site use Mobile Number
ZIPs vs CODEs
Be careful to adapt your address form. US zip codes only have digits, British postcodes have letters and digits – make sure your form field is alphanumerical for your British customers. For example, a New York zip code would be 10007, whereas a London post code would SW1 7RA.
US sites use Zip Codes – UK sites use Post Codes
VACATION vs HOLIDAY
In the US you go on vacation, in the UK you go on holiday, and hopefully you’ve found a “Holiday Special” or a “Bargain Break” online to help you save money!
US sites use Vacation / Holiday Special – UK sites use Holiday Special or Bargain Break
If you need some help with product names, you can look things up on this American – British English dictionary.
Tips on fine-tuning your English version
When your new English content is ready, spellcheck it using the relevant English. If possible get a native English speaker to check it for you. Remember that a high percentage of your international clients may be working in English as a second or third language – concise, clear writing will deliver your message safely.
If you’re aiming for a global audience, find yourself some English second or third language speakers to test the site. I graciously refer to these testers as ‘filters’; they filter out any difficult vocab and complex jargon. If they struggle with a too-high level of English, so will many others!
Think internationalisation of your brand
Launching an English version of your site isn’t just about reaching out to a wider audience online. It’s about finding new clients, converting them and keeping them loyal. Prepare all your other English materials as well: customer emails, marketing follow-ups, invoices, price lists etc. Don’t find yourself in the position of converting clients online and then being unable to service their after sales needs.
Remember, online your client only has your words and images to help them navigate your site and proceed through your checkout. Localisation is about making it feel ‘local’ to them. Do your research before you start and speak to them in their language; give yourself the best chances of converting your visitors into paying clients.
Photo credits: Trollied ! , Container ships , A Nice Pair via Photopin (license)
Data sources – Wiki
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