… we hold that English which has been spoken everywhere, always, by all.
So we want to use those words, spellings and so on that have been used the most widely for the longest time. We avoid language that has only been seen in one country, region or age.
You would be surprised how far you can get with just this rule. But when you have to come down on one side or the other favour the written English current in London.
Why London? It follows from our rule: it has been the English that has been the most widely accepted through most of time. Even in America.
American English is an example of the sort of English to avoid: one that belongs only to a certain time and place. American spellings, for example, did not appear till the early 19th century, two hundred years after Shakespeare, and is little used in the English-speaking world outside of North America.
Using American English might seem like a good idea now when American power is high, but it will seem quite different if, say, India is on top in the future. They would use an English much closer to British than American.
Here is a quick way to get a good idea of what the base words of such an English would be: Make two lists. The first list will have the most common words in American English. The second will have the same for Shakespeare. Words that exist in both lists will be your base words. You want to wind up with between 1500 and 2500 base words.
The base words are the heart of your English. In your writing at least nine words in ten should be one of these.
(The meanings of new words can be figured out from other words, but only when nine words in ten are already known).
This process will remove all the words that make Shakespeare seem so British and so 16th century. But for the very same reason, it will also remove all those words that make American English seem so American and so 21st century. You would be left with words that hold up well in any country and century in the English-speaking world, at least for the years 1600-2400.
And because your base words are found in Shakespeare, they will be understood long after English is dead. Just as Homer’s words are still understood even though Homeric Greek has been dead for over two thousand years.
For questions of usage, style, spelling and all the rest, follow The Economist as a good example of current London English. They even have a style guide online.
For definitions of words, look to Shakespeare and use those that are still current.
– Abagond, 2006.