De-ESL-ifying the web

English is the language of the world at this moment in time. True, Chinese has more native speakers, but the overwhelming majority of those live in China, whereas English is spoken as a first or second language essentially everywhere. Whatever you think of it, it’s not going anywhere, and anybody doing serious work on the Internet, on the global web that so suffuses our everyday life, really needs a good grounding in standard English.

That is a problem, however. Not everyone has that grounding, and it shows. Especially among developers, programmers, and documentation writers, it’s all too common to see broken English, even when the work in question is intended for audiences of all kinds. It’s not their fault, of course, and it’s not exactly fair to ask everyone to learn formal English before they’re allowed to write software or documentation.

Yet language has the sole function of communication, and when we use poor language (for whatever reason), communication suffers. Think of how many times you’ve had to strain your brain to decrypt a particularly obtuse text message. Think about how much more effective a well-written post on Facebook or Twitter can be when compared to the word salad used by certain…politicians.

Even among those who try, there can be problems. As English is spoken in many different countries, the other languages of those countries have imprinted themselves upon it. Thus, “World” English contains quite a few phrases and idioms that can confuse even native speakers. To take one common instance, someone on a game’s forum might speak of a “doubt” about performance; what they’re really saying is that they have a question to ask.

Not everybody needs correction, and a lot of people will consider it insulting to offer. (Indeed, a lot of people actually are insulting when they offer a grammar or wording correction, so the concern is understandable.) For a project intended to appear professional, however, it’d be nice to have an editor.

I am not an editor. I am an author and programmer, an amateur linguist and creator of languages. In nearly a quarter of a century online, I’ve probably seen every possible “ESL-ism”, and I think my experience and expertise qualifies me to lead the charge in eradicating them from the world of professional software and its documentation.

So that’s what I’m doing with this post. Today, I announce that I’m open for business. If you are an author or creator, and you’d like to de-ESL your project, I am here to help. I offer my services in the hope that I can make the world, the web, a better place.

For a small fee (rates are negotiable, especially for Free Software projects), I will proofread your documentation, tutorial, wiki, or other prose work concerning your software. I’ll remove ESL idioms, American or other regional colloquialisms, and any sort of unprofessional language to create a document that is easier for everyone to understand. If you’re interested, contact me at support@potterpcs.net with a subject containing “ESL”.