As of 2016, 400 million people spoke English as their first language, and 1.1 billion spoke it as a secondary language. It may be the global language of business, but there’s plenty of room for misinterpretation among English speakers.
Two of the broadest distinctions are between British English and North American English. For example, a U.S. reader of The Times, which is published in London, will instantly notice that “z” is sometimes replaced with “s” (recognize versus recognise). They’ll also observe “extra” consonants, and even “unnecessary” vowels (program/programme; traveled/travelled; neighbor/neighbour).
This broad distinction between British and North American English overlooks the fact that firstname.lastname@example.org speak their own unique version of English, with influences from both the U.S. and the U.K. In fact, a distinct feature of the style guide, Editing Canadian English, is the inclusion of comparison tables of American versus British spellings so Canadian editors can decide which to use, on each occasion.
Travel into the Southern Hemisphere and you’ll find additional differences in the way English is spoken and written. For example, Australians speak a distinct variety of English which originated in New South Wales, originally a penal colony founded in 1788.
In contrast, you’ll likely find a more formal version of English in India, where only a few hundred thousand Indians speak English as their first language. In news stories, for example, crime reports may use terms like miscreants, dacoits, and dastardly.
What About Your Website?
As a general rule of thumb, your website should be written in the language of your primary market. However, if you are actively working on attracting clients from another market, include a section directed to these clients, using language that corresponds to their conventions.
For example, a Florida agent who is marketing to buyers from the U.K. should include a section, written in British English, with content that will appeal to these buyers. This will also improve the likelihood of your content appearing in their search results, since you’ll be using keywords that come closer to matching the way they search.