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Sunday, 24 December 2017

Rules, Accents, and the Difficulties of Writing in English

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Written English is an odd language. Unlike languages such as French, where there are strict rules for writing, there are plenty of rules that are simply ignored or misused in English. This makes writing more difficult and often means that even native speakers struggle to make the meaning understood in written language. Despite this, English is the most used and widely spread language in the world and accounts for 80% of the information stored in the world’s computers.

In a mongrel language that has borrowed from around the globe, casually Anglicising words and phrases beyond the recognition of those they were taken from, writing, and writing well, often depends upon who is reading, and what the purpose of the text is. Though there is no official ‘formal English’, it is understood that some writing in some contexts is appropriate and not in others.

If English is not your first language, and you worry about your ability to make yourself understood when you write, learning the rules for written English is quite different to learning to speak. However, it is certainly possible to become fluent in the language and learn to write naturally, following similar patterns in your writing as you do in speech. A good place to start learning natural fluency is with the Effortless English Club, whose course is dedicated to teaching you to speak like the English, rather than by the rules.

Rules, Broken Rules and Which is Which

Interestingly, English people tend not to speak English properly. They might be aware of the rules of the language, but to be honest, most are more than happy to break these rules. The consequence is that English following the rules exactly, such as legalese, is almost impossible to read, write or even speak.

When it comes to writing, this inability to follow the rules is even more prominent. And, if you are new to the language, trying to follow some sentences, especially those full of interjections (like this one) can be tough. The best thing that anyone can do to improve their written language is to read as much as possible. Just as speaking with a friend can rapidly improve your speaking and listening, reading and replicating sentence patterns will help your writing skills along. 

Accent and Dialect

In England, there are hundreds of accents and dialects, all affecting the way English people speak (usually the differences are to be found in the vowel sounds) and their particular phrasing. This can make English speakers more difficult to follow in conversation. Written English, however, is much more standardised and it is unlikely that dialect will be used unless it is written in speech marks.

While using dialect in something like an email to a work colleague is fine, you might want to double check before you send something written in dialect to another company, for example. The benefit of having such a range of dialects is that even English people can be unsure of the meaning of some words and phrases, so you won’t be the only one wondering what a barm cake is, why something is bostin or when you became their ‘luvver’.

* This is a contributed post.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

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