What is English? It is the most influential language in the world, based on the results of George Weber’s extensive research published in 1997. He took into account numbers of primary and secondary speakers, the number of countries where particular languages are used and their populations, the major fields – financial, scientific, technical, literary – using the language internationally, and the economic power of countries using the languages. This is the latest deep and broad survey and little has changed since. English is still leading by a wide margin.
What is English really? Is it the formal prose of classical writers, or the street argot of Jamaica? Is it business speak or the ever evolving language of text messages, Twitter and teen slang? It’s all of these. It’s a dynamic communication medium where misunderstanding can result in mild puzzlement, through offence, to a cause of violence. It is the language of love and also of hate, of clarity and confusion. English is the dominant language of commerce throughout the world. It is the dominant language of the Internet, with nearly half a billion users although speakers of Chinese dialects are slowly catching up.
What is good English? It is the language that the people you are speaking with, or who are reading what you have written can understand. This can be a relatively simple matter if you are talking to people in your own neighbourhood, but may not be so simple if you venture further afield and encounter a different dialect. Generally, written English is more standardised, but can still be a problem if the reader does not understand idioms, technical, or occupation specific words and references. Using good written English can be a problem, even for native speakers.
But what if English is not your first language and you have something to say that needs to be clear and easily understood? You may be proficient in English and can write formal prose; however your audience is more used to an informal style, and responds better to colloquialisms and local idiom. Advertising agencies spend large sums on testing messages with focus groups that represent their target markets. Politicians employ speechwriters to create a message that resonates with voters in key demographic classes. You also can benefit by employing professional copywriters who are skilled both in writing good English that effectively conveys your message, as well as in correcting something you have written yourself, tailoring your words to fit their intended purpose.
Of course, this applies to native English speakers as well, when your message is intended for groups outside your everyday experience. The services of a professional experienced writer can make all the difference. Even if you do not wish to have any changes made, you will benefit from professional proofreading because you will miss errors in your own copy; you will see the word you intended to write, rather than the one on the paper. Spell checkers are not infallible and they do not know the differences between British and American English.
Aleks Ozolins is a Bachelor of Arts graduate from Australia. This article was written on behalf of UKcopy English Correction Service.