World English

Purpose


The purpose of this website is to define and explain a new global standard for the English language, designed for use in publications, and in speeches and lectures given in English throughout the world, by the medical profession, scientists, academics, technologists, lawyers, economists, industrialists, business people, even politicians and diplomats, and any other professionals who are either

To set such a standard, the content of this website is necessarily totally prescriptive. For decades, if not a century, in the English speaking world, there has been a move both in the education systems of anglophone countries, and among linguisticians, and therefore among ordinary English speaking people, to feel that it is somehow not anybody’s place to tell anybody else how they may express themselves in English. The ethos has been that if a person is a native English speaker who is not a small child still learning their own language, anything that they say or write is naturally fine, because the language belongs to them.

Well, there is a lot that is wrong with that opinion; but that side of it is not even relevant here. That is because the whole purpose of this website, and of the World English technical communication standard that it defines, is to impose limits on the freedom of English native speakers and writers in order to eliminate every possible source of ambiguity for the benefit of readers and hearers of texts and speech complying with this standard. The content of anything published that complies with this standard can be expected to be as easy as possible, both for native and for non-native anglophones, to read or hear and understand, even when their mastery of English is not perfect. Authors and speakers are thus urged to ensure that their output complies with this standard, especially where it is important that the technical material be available to a global audience, for whom it must be as understandable and as unambigous as possible, and thus not too easy to misunderstand, wherever in the world these readers or hearers come from, whether it be Asia, Europe, Africa or central or South America.

That having been said, in the view of many people it is highly desirable that all communicators in English start to make the effort to comply with this standard, even when they are themselves anglophone and only intend to reach an anglophone audience or readership, simply because there is so much terribly badly written English text both on the World Wide Web and even in print nowadays. So many people have never learnt to construct properly grammatical sentences, and there is so much appallingly bad (almost illiterate) punctuation of written text. Few people ever seem to read the numerous books that claim to explain correct grammar, and many of those are very verbose and chatty and yet do not set out clearly, let alone concisely, how to compose a sentence in English grammatically and to punctuate it correctly. They are all too strongly influenced by the anti-prescriptivist agenda of those damned linguisticians!

Here is an example of what the author of humorous scientific website xkcd thinks of people who adopt a private language which they use as though it were literate, adult English although it is quite definitely not:

This was the cartoon of the day on Monday 16th October 2017 on his website xkcd.com. The man wearing the beret acts as though his usage were acceptable to educated adults; however, for anybody reading this whose first language is not English, I will explain explicitly: the word for the animal he is talking about is “rabbit”. The word “bun”, which he is using to mean “rabbit”, has two uses by well educated adults, and in fact these are so defined in Wiktionary:

  1. A small bread roll, often sweetened or spiced
  2. A tight roll of hair worn at the back of the head
Now, Wiktionary also gives four more uses of the word which are either very regional, or mere slang, or both; and none of those meanings is the kind that is allowed in World English: they are totally banned, and any document — whether a book, or an academic paper, or any other type of written news or opinion article, or column, business correspondence (letter), and any public speech, that makes such use of any English word is not compliant with the World English standard because it fails to obey what is specified here.

The man in the beret in the xkcd cartoon is, quite madly, ascribing yet another use to the word “bun” which even Wiktionary has the sense not to recognize: he is using it as a shortened form of “bunny” which is a term for a rabbit, but one which is used only with small children in English, by parents and carers, often combined in the phrase “bunny rabbit”; and it is simply insane when used by an adult to another adult that it is generally obvious to every native English-speaking adult anywhere in the world, whichever regional form of English they might have grown up with and whichever subculture they might live and work in, that the man in the beret in the xkcd cartoon is mad. So that is the linguistic point being made by the xkcd man: do not expect other adults — who do not happen to share some private subculture of your own — to tolerate and accept eccentric usages; use standard, adult, World English with people outside your own private family circle!

That, in short, is what World English is about.

At this moment, this website has only this one page, because this is serving as a placeholder. It has been created on 4th February 2017 and a vast amount of work needs to be done before the rest of the website will be ready to use. All we can say at this stage is: if you are interested in this project, watch this space.

Last update: 24th June 2018