I’ve been afraid of writing this post for a couple of days; I want everything I write to be perfect. But that’s impossible, so I’ll just continue writing.
I’ve been thinking muchly and I have decided that I am confused. There is a second realisation, but I’ll leave that till the end. I am a copywriter at a search engine optimisation company. That means I have to write ‘copy’ for websites to rank well in Google. This is something that anyone can do. But I try to write well. I try to do better than mere keyword stuffing, and give meaning to my articles.
In the beginning, I didn’t pay too much attention to my grammar; I thought mine was OK. One day, however, I received feedback on one of the articles I submitted: the ‘Track Changes’ in Word was used and it didn’t look pretty.
That got me thinking that I might have to tighten up my grammar a bit. Just a bit. It won’t hurt, right? So that’s what I have been doing these past seven months. I’ve been reading Grammar Girl, Copyblogger, Words to the Wise and many other language related blogs. Yes, I’ve also been reading Conjugate Visits and even made the faux pas of calling it Conjugal Visits…
Doing this has made me very aware of the difference between British English and American English. I now know that ‘installment’ should be ‘instalment’ in British English; I have newfound admiration for the American English ‘jewelry’ instead of the British English ‘jewellery’; and I prefer using ‘per cent’ instead of the more common ‘percent’.
So I’m terribly confused when I read some of the writing in our esteemed dailies. American English spellings ‘creep in’ everywhere and it seems as though there are no editorial control. I’m sure there are, but it just doesn’t feel like it. I’m not a trained writer; I stumbled into online writing in 2006. So I have no idea what a newsroom looks like, or what pressures sub-editors and writers have.
But I know that seeing misspelt words trick our brains into thinking that’s the correct spelling. If you were to see ‘bachelor’ spelt as batchelor every day, soon you will start writing it like that. Or if you are always hearing expresso instead of espresso, you’d soon start talking like that, too. I sometimes wonder whether spellcheckers are to blame for this, at least a little bit. ‘Misspelt’ is underlined right now, and so is ‘spelt’. These are British spellings, but because my version of Firefox is American, it thinks I misspelt those words.
So I’ve been thinking that perhaps South Efrican is changing to something that is a mix of British and American English. Yes, it’s true that our verbal English is nowhere close to AE or BE, but our writing has always leaned towards BE. Right? So I’d be interested from all you editor types out there: do we just no longer care, or is our language changing thanks to the interweb (see? even I use fashionable words), texting and American English?