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A much-repeated quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw states that Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language. While that is true, and the subject of this short post, there is also the small matter of the North Atlantic Ocean (or “the Pond”) to consider too.

The differences between British and American English can be divided into two groups: words that mean different things in each country and things that have different names in each country.

A good example of the first group is “suspenders”. In the US these are usually used to keep men’s pants (US meaning) up, whereas in the UK they could, arguably and questionably, be used to get men’s pants (UK meaning) down.

The second group is larger than the first and consists of words like courgette, aubergine, nappy and crisps. These are everyday British words that would only become everyday American words if translated to zucchini, eggplant, diaper and chips.

This is to say nothing of differences in grammar (got/gotten), spelling (colour/color), or punctuation (the Oxford/serial comma is usually used before the final “and” in a list in American English, but not in British).

So when you’re writing in English, make sure you know your company’s preferred variant. And if it doesn’t have one, at least be consistent throughout your text, as mixing and matching not only reduces the quality – and hence the impact – of your message, it’s also a pet peeve of copywriters from both sides of the Pond.