Monday Mar 16, 2009

Polyorthographic

A few months ago I was updating my Wikipedia user page after seeing a user box on someone else's user page that I wanted on my own user page. I opted to browse a bit and see if there were other boxes that I might also want to add. One category of user box I wished to add to my page was to indicate my language preferences. Though I live and work in the United States I've remained a devout Canadian speller and used other idioms of Canadian writing (garbage not trash, holiday not vacation, etc.). Confronted with the options for spelling preferences I found that there was no existing user box for "I use Canadian spellings". I didn't wish to use the "I prefer United Kingdom spelling" user box because I don't use UK spellings for many words. I could have originated a new "Canadian spellings" user box but another of the existing choices intrigued me:

MIX : This user has been influenced by too many dialects of English to use one orthography, vocabulary and grammar consistently.

This polyorthographic user box doesn't accurately describe how I try to write. I do prefer to write using Canadian spellings and idioms, but it does reflect how I read. I'm comfortable reading almost all modern styles of written English. I opted to add this user box to my Wikipedia user page rather than creating a new Canadian English user box. I didn't feel that it was entirely accurate but felt the distinction wasn't worth fussing over.

Since adding the user box I've actually continued to think about it and how I use language, strange as that may sound. I discovered that my feelings about using Canadian style orthography were more complicated that I had thought. For example, last year while working on the JXSE Programmers Guide 2.5 I made the conscious decision to use American spelling and grammar to be consistent with the previous edition and the other chapters written by other people. Reasonable enough. Also, after reading about International English, Basic English, E-Prime and the Simplified Spelling Society (all courtesy of the zany link boffins at reddit.com) I decided to follow some of the rules that these simplified grammars advocate for my email and forum communications whenever I suspected that the reader might not be a native English speaker. I believe that using English that is less idiomatic has possibly made my writing easier to understand. Since I can never remember all of the English grammar rules anyway I'm also choosing to write only in the narrower style of the rules that I do know.

I'm finding myself becoming increasingly comfortable with being a polyorthographic English writer and now believe that the user box will eventually accurately reflect my writing. I'm also taking more of an interest in other ways I can continue to improve my written English.

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mduigou

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