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Which variety of English — like American English, British English, and so one — is better to choose when translating to Englis, or building it from scratch, for an e-commerce site which intends to operate globally?

Is American English a standard choice for such a use? Or is there a trend for some artificial mix of different varieties of English to become such a standard?

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Some time ago I was involved in developing a site for a large international bank. It had already been translated into American English (from British English) and they were in discussions to translate to International English as well. However, I'm not sure how International English is formerly defined? –  w3d Jun 11 '11 at 11:44
    
What you should actually be doing is identifying the locality of each visitor and presenting them with the appropriate language. –  Ste Jul 20 '12 at 9:46
    
Actually that doesn't work well in reality. I hate going abroad and accessing a UK site only to be presented with the foreign language version and no chance of changing it. Better I think to present the user with the default language but give them the option to change. If you were to be truly global you would need to offer Chinese and Spanish at least. –  Facebook Answers Feb 8 '13 at 9:27
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4 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Even though I'm a Brit I would have to vote for American English. I've lived here (the US) for 12 years, and there have been just too many words that translate OK from American English to British English but not the other way round, examples include; mail/post, dumpster/skip. It is also a lot easier to explain American English spelling, I give you the letter 'u' as an example.

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Lots of new internet-related words also seem to have been invented in the context of American English, so for an E-commerce site that may make sense? –  Claudiu Oct 28 '10 at 15:24
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As an Australian, I don't mind a web site using US English if some care is taken. "Zip code" is a good example of something to avoid.

I do mind web sites that think that only the US and Canada have states and provinces, and that states always have two-letter abbreviations. Saying that a product will be ready in "the spring" is only true for half the world, admittedly the more populous half. Say "second quarter" instead.

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Yes, it depends on your target market. A lot of sites that initially targeted Australia from O.S. (international E-Commerce sites) used a common US English site wide. Later incarnations with .com.au specific sub sites have started to offer a more natural British English spelling, to appeal to the local population.

I think if you're trying to get market share anywhere but the US, you will find that UK English will seem less incongruous to readers.

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Personally I would stick to UK-English. People like differences, in my experience, and global shoppers would by definition be a pretty savvy bunch anyway. Be proud of your heritage!

I would however avoid words which could cause confusion.

Instead of mail or post, I would say shipping.

I would certainly stick with UK spellings. There is nothing wrong with "colour", and it is always amusing hearing somebody from outside the UK asking for Worcestershire sauce.

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Who said his "heritage" was UK? I get the impression he's got an original that isn't any form of English at all. –  T.E.D. Feb 8 '13 at 9:36
    
Good point. If I was Chinese and wanting to do a global site using English I would definately opt for American or International English. –  Facebook Answers Feb 8 '13 at 10:25
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