Translation is an obvious choice when launching a website in a country with a different language – most US sites translate their content when they launch in France, for example – but surprisingly, many US websites aren’t using a UK copywriter when they bring their sites to Great Britain.
You might not think that US to UK translation is a pressing issue, but with an increasing number of US companies launching UK-specific sites, it can cause significant frustration, not to mention misunderstandings, among UK readers when US-centric copywriting isn’t updated for our idioms. So what do you need to be aware of, and what can a UK copywriter help you with?
Different words that mean the same thing
One area where using a UK copywriter rather than a writer from the US is useful is for the obvious differences – where we use two completely different words to describe the same thing. A good basic example is food: we say courgette not zucchini, aubergine not eggplant, crisps not chips – and chips not fries! Although small, such vocabulary differences can easily cause annoyance, especially if readers don’t understand what is being discussed or recommended.
Spelling and SEO
Spelling is another area where it pays to use a British copywriter rather than a US one. Incorrectly spelling a few words for a British audience might not seem like a big deal, but it can have a sizable impact when it comes to SEO. UK searchers just won’t find a product labelled as “gray pajamas”, because they’ll be typing in “grey pyjamas”.
Nuances in meaning
Spelling and word usage are important, but it’s probably the smaller nuances that have the biggest impact when it comes to altering the meaning of the copy. Jokes and phrases that work well in the US may well fall flat in the UK, and it’s unlikely a US copywriter will be familiar with the many idioms and phrases that pepper the UK usage of the English language.
Plus, even though the internet has brought understanding of many American words to the UK (we all know shipping means delivery) there’s still many words that are used entirely differently on each side of the Atlantic.
The modifier “quite”, for example, is interpreted differently by British audiences and Americans.
In the UK, quite more usually means “fairly”, whereas Americans normally use it to mean “very”. So describing something as “quite good” could leave US and UK audiences with very different interpretations!
Many people don’t realise that there are also grammatical differences between US and UK English. A lot of the differences are small (for example we say “at the weekend” rather than “on the weekend”) but these will still be jarring for British readers.
Localisation by a UK copywriter is important
Website localisation isn’t just for foreign language sites. There are cultural nuances that are understood in the UK and best expressed by a British copywriter. US websites planning to create UK version of their websites would be best advised to hire a UK copywriter: it’s not just about putting the u’s in the right place! A regional copywriter will ensure that the copy has the right words and tone to be found and understood by a UK audience, and to accurately convey your brand with maximum appeal to the local audience. This could ensure the difference between mediocre and high impact in the region for your business.