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Varieties of English

When you request editing services, one sometimes overlooked or under-thought question is what variety of English you want to be edited in. Some of us think of this mostly as what dictionary will be used in a spell-check, but it actually affects a whole range of issues arising in a text, including punctuation marks like quotation marks and m- or n- dashes, and stylistic choices such as toward or towards.

One hundred years ago, authorities would have been likely to recognize only two varieties of written (printed) English -- the English of the UK and that of the United States, while interpreting anything else as more or less defective or hybrid versions of the two. Now, however, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand English have official forms backed by government policies ('A language is a dialect with an Armed Forces'), and the English of South Africa, India, Pakistan and many other countries has been codified to varying degrees.  While I may not edit in all of these varieties of English, awareness of different codified standards was important in becoming self-aware as an editor.

Also, internationalization of education and scholarly discourse increasingly means that speakers of one variety of English submit their work to institutions or journals that require another variety. A small choice that requires some thought, after all.   



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