Make your online presence fit in with the UK market

A guide to localisation for the UK

1 Overview

We’ve created this guide to help you get closer to your British customers. A web presence that is in tune with Britain’s culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them the confidence to do business with you. Get the little details right, and you'll be in a good position right from the start in your new market.

2 The main language

British English is the main spoken and written language in Britain. Even though it is a culturally diverse country, most customers would expect to be communicated to in British English.

British English spellings differ from American English spellings. One example is that many words in English have a “u” where there is none in American English.

Here is an example:

UK US
Favour Favor
Colour Color
Honour Honor

American English uses a z instead of the s used in British English:

UK US
Organise Organize
Maximise Maximize
Stylise Stylize

3 Formality

Should you be formal or informal when addressing your customers?

In Britain, most products are written about in an informal way. At times this can verge on playful. Products with this informality include YouTube, Gmail, and Google Play.

If you have a financial product, a legal service, or are talking about money, you should adopt a more formal tone and style.

4 Numbering systems and formats

Numerals

Decimal separator

This is a dot or full stop (.),
e.g. 1.5 hours.

Thousands and decimals

The thousand separator is a comma (,)
e.g. 1,524 people.

Telephone numbers

Telephone numbers are usually in the format of (+44) 123 4567 8910. Freephone numbers are usually 0800 123 4567.

Good to know

The British normally write out numerals from 1–9 (one, five, nine) and double digits are written as numerals, i.e. 12, 24, etc. The separator for ranges of numbers is an en dash (–),
e.g. 11–19 people.

5 Currency format

Pounds Sterling. This is represented by the pound sign £ and its trading three letter code GBP.

The pound denominations are £50 £20 £10 £5 £2 £1. The pence denominations are 50p 20p 10p 5p 2p 1p.

6 Dates and times

Date and time formats

In Britain the date format is DD/MM/YY,
e.g. 24/03/17.

Or if written out in full, it should be "24 March 2017" (no commas and no ordinals like th, nd, or st).

When writing out dates in full, including the day, put a comma in after the day,
e.g. "Monday, 27 March 2017".

The separator for ranges of dates is an en dash (–),
e.g. "24–27 March".

When both dates are in different months write out the months in full. Use a space at either side of the en dash (–),
e.g. "28 March – 4 April".

You could also use this in one month,
e.g. 27 March – 29 March.

7 Hour formats

Both the 24-hour and the 12-hour clock are used in the U.K.

In everyday speech the 12-hour format is preferred and should be written as 9.35 p.m. or 6.21 a.m. (i.e. the separator between the hours and minutes is a full stop, and the p.m. and a.m. parts must always have full stops).

The 24-hour format is favoured on digital devices like PCs, phones, tablets, etc. and is the standard format on Android where the separator is a colon, e.g. 14:24.

8 Working days

Standard working days are Monday to Friday.

Remember, the British say and write “Monday to Friday”, not “Monday through Friday.”

9 Things to avoid in the British market

Every culture has different superstitions and traditions which are always worth noting, especially when entering a new market. The British consider the number 13 to be unlucky. The date Friday 13 is also considered to be unlucky, particularly for travellers.

10 Important rules

Here are the top five translation tips that will make you sound like a local in no time:

  1. Take a note of the US vs UK differences in spelling, punctuation, pricing, date formats, measurements, terminology, etc.

  2. Stay clear of colloquialisms and expressions used in your language, as they may not translate in the UK market. For example “he’s too big for his boots.”

  3. Take account of cultural differences so you don’t confuse or offend your British audience. For example, don’t mention Thanksgiving in a promotion or assume that it is understood in the UK

  4. Marketing copy created for a US audience is not always ideal for a British audience. In such cases, use a transcreation service which will help you keep the original idea and tone, while making the copy more suited for a British audience

  5. The US prefers title case all over their copy. But the UK writer hardly ever uses title case, even in titles and tabs. It is considered a bit “shouty”

11 Additional guidelines

Discover how to ensure your website is local in tone and language in our website localisation guide.