Editing Australian Writing for Audiences in the United States

Australian flag signifying Australian writing.If you  plan to sell your products and services in the United States, editing your writing to adapt to the local language is essential. Bear in mind that Australian writing is not always clear to readers in the United States.

For example, a few years ago we adapted a brochure for an Australian software company that sells its products in the US.  In the original version being distributed in the United States, the company was explaining how the software automatically completed a process fortnightly. This must have left many of their US prospects scratching their heads because Americans don’t use the word fortnight. Most don’t know what it means and use the terms every two weeks and biweekly to describe that length of time. Some Americans might have been exposed to the word fortnight through reading British literature or other sources, but the vast majority will have to look it up to understand what it means.

In addition, the way you spell your words can have an influence on the effectiveness of your message. I recently came across a website of an Australian motivational speaker and author living in the US. She speaks about parenting and writes about being a mum on her website. Although there is nothing wrong with the spelling the word mum, Americans spell it mom. US readers will understand the meaning but will be distracted by the unfamiliar spelling. For maximum effectiveness it would be better to use the US spelling in your writing for readers in the United States. Likewise, US businesses will get better results by editing their copy when selling to Australian consumers and businesses.

Here are a few of many terms and spellings that vary between US and Australian writing.

Australian term US equivalent
autumn fall
barrack for a team root for a team
biscuits cookies
bonnet (of a car) hood
boot (or a car) trunk
bushwalking hiking
CBD (central business district) downtown
cyclone hurricane
footpath sidewalk
hire a car rent a car
holiday vacation
jug pitcher
jumper sweater
lollies candy
maths math
mum mom
nappy diaper
petrol gas
pissed drunk
post code zip code
primary school elementary (or grammar) school
shopping centre shopping mall
shopping trolley shopping cart
spring onion (or shallots) scallion
tap faucet
thongs flip flops
torch flashlight
wardrobe closet


But there’s much more than spelling and word usage that differentiates Australian writing from US writing. Many aspects of style tend to differ between the two countries. A few of these include bulleted lists, acronyms, initials of names, dates and times, and dashes and hyphens. If you are not sure what the accepted style is in the United States, you can refer to the Chicago Manual of Style or The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook.

In some cases, you will need to decide where your main market is and have your writing edited accordingly. For example, we regularly edit books for Australian authors who sell their publications through Amazon. Given the size of the US market, compared with the UK and Commonwealth nations, these authors ask us to edit their work to create US versions. In a typical book, we make hundreds of changes when editing to adapt the spelling, words and style for US readers.

If you are delivering a speech or presentation to US audiences, you will want to get feedback from a native speaker or long-term resident to see if they understand everything you are saying.  Although not in a professional setting, I remember my young son shocking American relatives when he said, “I’m going to wash my hands in the toilet”. When speaking in public, you don’t want to get a similar reaction from your audience by saying something that they don’t understand or misinterpret.

So whether you’re writing a brochure, book or presentation for audiences in the United States, it pays to have your work edited and reviewed by a professional editor who understands the differences between words, expressions and style in Australia and the United States.

Michael Gladkoff