Can anyone direct me to a source that defines international English and style guidelines?
Thread poster: Catherine Brix

Catherine Brix
Local time: 19:48
Swedish to English
+ ...
May 3, 2004

I have of late noticed an increased demand for "international English". This as opposed to American or British English - or other kinds of "native" English. I'm a bit stumped here - can't find any style guidelines for "international English". I normally ask my clients to specify what they mean and so far, 9 times out of 10 I find they want a mix of British and American spelling - 'organisation' but 'center', 'colour' but 'program' and so on. Also notice a tendency for American financial terms. Is anyone else experiencing this and/or can anyone direct me to a source that defines international English and style guidelines?

Extremely grateful for any and all help.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2004-05-04 06:04]


00000000 (X)
English to French
+ ...
Canadian English? May 3, 2004

From your examples, it seems that they'd be happy with Canadian English.

Seriously, I find the concept of "International English" rather unworkable. The clients who ask for that are trying to save on localization. In some fields it doesn't matter much, in others you really have to address readers or users in their own variety.



Marc P (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
German to English
+ ...
International English May 4, 2004

I think the question is not so much what language the customer wants, but what the purpose of the text is. International English is usually English for an international readership, which includes people who speak different forms of English, and people for whom English is not the first language.

I write British English unless I'm asked to do otherwise (which hardly ever happens), but I often write texts intended for an international readership. Much more important, I think, than the spelling of "colour" or "centre" or whether the punctuation goes inside or outside the quotes, is being aware of and avoiding linguistic and cultural regionalisms.



Alison Schwitzgebel
Local time: 19:48
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
There is no "official" international version of English May 4, 2004

Everyone has their own idea about what "international English" is. Personally, when asked to write "international English" I use US spelling and grammar conventions, but avoid the use of any idioms and style that might be difficult to understand for an international readership whose native language is not English.

For example, I wouldn't say that something "knocked me for six", as that is a UK idiom which stems from cricket - a game unheard of in many parts of the world. I also wouldn't say that something "knocked me clean out of the ballpark", as that is a US idiom with its roots in baseball. Instead I would tend to say that something was "fantastic" or words to that effect.

With regard to financial terminology you have to be very careful in particular with regard to accounting. US accounting (US GAAP) has its own very specific set of rules and terminology based on these rules. You don't want to confuse your readership by using the wrong terminology if your company uses a different accounting standard (IFRS, HGB, whatever).




Anne Lee  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Member (2003)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Style guide May 4, 2004

I have found the following link useful as a comprehensive set of rules to define 'good practice'.
The publications are destined for an international readership.


tectranslate ITS GmbH
Local time: 19:48
+ ...
Nice. May 4, 2004

Anne Lee wrote:

I have found the following link useful as a comprehensive set of rules to define 'good practice'.
The publications are destined for an international readership.

That's a nice resource, thank you. It is somewhat biased towards British English, but nonetheless very comprehensive.icon_smile.gif


Altrum  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
European Commission May 4, 2004

This is the style guide recommended by the European Commission Translation Service.
Has a British bias...


Judy Rojas  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
The Chicago Manual of Style May 4, 2004

Try this publication. Published by the University of Chicago Press, it has been a requirement for some time.


Catherine Brix
Local time: 19:48
Swedish to English
+ ...
Thank you all! May 4, 2004

I have the Oxford Manual of Style and the Chicago Manual of Style and find both invaluable tools. The links mentioned are indeed superb, and now among my favourites.

I fully appreciate that the term international English can be used to emphasize a preference for neutral wording so obviously a word like 'homely' should be avoided. As to spelling, it appears translators themselves set their own standards, which I guess makes it OK to allow customers to state their preferences.

Again, thank you all for your input.


Bosnian to English
+ ...
Brits more accepting?? May 14, 2004

I worked for an international organization and found this "standard" English to be a bit of an obstacle, since everyone favo(u)red the standard of their own country. I am wondering what is a reaction that the average Brit has when he reads American spelling? The reason I am asking is that I think that the average American would find British spelling of words distracting. I am wondering if the Brits, being a bit more worldly, aren't more used to seeing American spelling and thus more accepting of it? Any thoughts on this??

By the way, The Economist covers this a bit in its online style guide, which I found somewhat helpful, although it obvioulsy leans a tad toward UK Eng.


Palko Agi  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
English to Hungarian
+ ...
international business English is being taught May 25, 2004

I saw a course at British Council Budapest, where they teach this using "New International Business English – Updated Edition” by Leo Jones (another source says: Jones and Alexander), published by Cambridge. That book may help you...


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