Globe public editor: A diverse audience and the struggle with language

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

With this article, titled Rio on the rise, The Globe and Mail opened its South America bureau in Rio de Janeiro. But no sooner did veteran foreign correspondent Stephanie Nolen take up her new duties than she received an email from a reader with concerns about language.

The reader was pleased to have “a real, live journalist on the ground in Brazil,” but was concerned about what he called “spelling mistakes.”

“It would simply be unbearable and inexcusable if during next year’s intense focus on Brazil, its largest city, São Paulo, and its capital, Brasília, would continue to be misspelled in The Globe and Mail without their accent marks. Not spelling São Paulo and Brasília correctly would completely defeat the whole purpose of a having a correspondent in Brazil!”

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Then in this Saturday’s Focus section, Ms. Nolen wrote a fascinating story on language and a concern among linguist purists over the rise of “Brazilian Portuguese.”

The Globe recognizes that to many readers – especially those who see their native language “misspelled” in the paper (such as with accents dropped), this is discomfiting. With an increasingly diverse audience in a diverse country, Globe editors struggle to standardize spelling with non-English languages, although that standardization does not include accents.

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