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I am working on a website that supports multi-language. Currently the default English is american as this was recommended here, but I am thinking about implementing british, so my question is:

Will only having american english impact the simplicity (or understandability) for non-american users?

  • It probably depends on the website's purpose. Could you add more information? Most often, a single version of English is going to be fine. However, in certain domains there may be a lot of differences in the terms used. – user31143 Apr 18 '16 at 13:15
  • The top answer on that question didn't recommend American English for multi-language applications though. It stated (emphasis mine): "if you're not going to have any localisation go with American spellings" – JonW Apr 18 '16 at 13:28
  • @JonW Yes, I know. The american version is like default for this website. – timmyRS Apr 18 '16 at 19:16
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Stepping back a bit, one key thing to understand is the difference between EN-GB and EN-US.

Realistically, spelling differences are minor and not difficult to understand for either set of users - here's a (non-exhaustive) set of examples:

Prefixes and Suffixes

-ize/-yze Change to -ise/-yse. (e.g. synchronise, analyse)

-or Change to -our. (e.g. colour, neighbour)

-er Change to -re. (e.g. centre, metre)

-g Change to -gue. (e.g. Catalogue, dialogue)

-l- Change to -ll-. (e.g. enrollment, modelling)

-ed Change to -t. (e.g. leapt, learnt) (This is not always the rule!)

Depending on the context of your website, there may be other bits of copy you use that are have EN-US roots - but typically most English speakers will be able to understand them, but your experience will vary depending on the type of website it is and how niche the topics and journeys are.

Two keys things to evaluate before spending time and effort on this are:

  • what is the proportion of non-US English speakers using the website currently?
  • what is the business value of adding in translations for those users?

Unless you can point to anything specific, this requirement feels like a 'nice to have', and you may find your effort is spent better on other languages or features in your backlog.

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I also work on a multilingual website. I doubt Americans would have much trouble comprehending British English. However, our SEO boffins pointed out that American spellings ranked much higher in Google. So, even if you cast your pages in the Queen's English, make sure your H1s and page titles are in American.

  • -1 Checking Google rankings is a good suggestion, but the inconsistency in flip-flopping between spellings may hurt your perception of your professionalism among native speakers. – Tim FitzGerald Apr 19 '16 at 23:45

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