Well, you may be thinking: duh. But — how often do we see Spanish written according to the rules of English? Very, very often.

Bilingual speakers who live in English-speaking countries usually speak and write English all day long. We have to “switch gears” when we go to write in Spanish. This challenge is usually compounded by the fact that we haven’t had the opportunity to receive years and years of native schooling in the rules for written Spanish. Our written English was corrected almost daily for well over a decade while we were growing up. Even so, everyone still makes mistakes writing that language; how perfectly can we expect to write a language in which we received far less instruction?

So we sit down to write an email. Or to draft up a document our boss assigned us because we speak Spanish.

And out it comes: “Se reunirá el último Viernes del mes.” Wait, no. Days of the week aren’t capitalized in Spanish, so we correct ourselves: “…el último viernes del mes.” There, that’s better. Now, “Favor de presentar su solicitud para el 23 de Mayo.” Wait, no. Names of months aren’t capitalized either, so we revise again: “…el 23 de mayo.”

Then we need to write a question, so we type: “Quién me acompañará?” No! (Or, better yet: ¡No!) That inverted question mark at the beginning is so easy to forget: “¿Quién me acompañará?” There we go.

I’m too tired to go on! Why can’t the rules be consistent?

It would take a dissertation to begin to answer that question, but the fact is, they’re not. Both languages have hundreds of years of written heritage that brought them to where they are. As bilingual speakers, we have a great privilege in that we get to enjoy the benefits of both. But it does take some effort and concentration to make sure our writing accurately reflects our education and professionalism.

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