Talk the Talk. Write the Walk.: logo with tag Imagine More

Talk the Talk. Write the Walk.

by Linda Jenkinson

too or to error

Is English your second language? You're not alone.

I marvel at the language skills of those who live outside of native English-speaking countries. Several friends speak two or more languages. I find that phenomenal. Although I have studied French and Spanish, I am far from conversant in either language. English is my one and only and sometimes I've wondered about my English proficiency.

English is the first language of some 400 million people and the most used second language in the world (1). As far back as 1995, non-native speakers outnumbered native speakers by a ratio of three to one. That number has likely increased over the last decade. Whether or not English is your first language, it may not be first for a healthy chunk of your website visitors.

Get Help From Online Text Checkers

If you worry about your English writing, online text checkers can help you improve written English. A great site to find software is Alternative To. Their listings include applications for all types of devices from smartphone to desktop computers, and apps for every use from email checking to web content reviewing. Don't rely on the first one you try or fall back on Word's grammar checker. Test several applications. Find those that tell you why you have made an error. Then, use your own best judgement to decide which one(s) are right for you.

I have found a genuine friend in ProWritingAid. This is one application that is worth its weight in gold but don't rely on my opinion alone. Try it out. It’s available in either a free or a paid version.

Your Personal Style Guide

Creating a personal style guide is another method of improving your writing. Use a personal style guide to list your frequent mistakes and also customize your own styles. This is good practice, even if English is your first language. Guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Manual of Style, are good references to help you get started.

  1. Keep notes on homonyms like way and weigh and they’re, there, and their; its and it’s.
  2. List typos that a spell checker will miss and check to make sure you’ve used the right one. An example of this are the words ‘from’ and ‘form.’

If you’re like me, sometimes when your fingers do the walking, they trip!

Customize your style guide with your favorite styles to keep your writing consistent. Even resources like the AP style guide can‘t tell you if website is better as one word (website) or two (web site). Another word up for grabs is Internet or is that internet? Either way is correct, but you can polish your presentation by ensuring you always write a word the same way.

What’s Your Brand of English?

When you write for clients, you’ll find some favor American English and others prefer U.K. English or other English variants. Ask them what dialect they prefer. Learn the differences in spelling and usage in different English dialects. I keep separate lists for clients to make sure I add the ‘u’ to words like honour or replace a U.S. ‘z’ with a U.K. ‘s.’

Never assume clients want you to write in their brand of English. Some enterprises want content for an American market, but others may want to extend their brand to nations abroad. The old saw, “content is king” is wrong. What you say is no more important than how you say it.


  1. “Across Cultures, English Is the Word - The New York Times.” 2014. Accessed November 28, 2013.

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