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Say that I want to write some blog posts or news articles in Spanish. Are there any useful resources (e.g. books, websites or guidelines) that one could use in order to write “neutral” Spanish, that would be equally well understood by people from Spain as well as from Latin America.

Another way to put this question, is there a somewhat reliable way of knowing if some words or phrases I'm using should be avoided because they are specific to some regional variation?

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This is a very important topic but keep in mind that asking for suggestions does not fit with Stack Exchange's design for a question and answer site since it asks for a list and does not have "one right answer". It might be better if you ask for a book or website on the topic. Or if you ask individual questions about specific things you want to say in neutral Spanish. –  hippietrail Nov 16 '11 at 12:45
    
Thanks, I've tried to make the question a bit more specific. On your later suggestion, that's basically imposible, and that's why I am asking this: If I do not know which specific things that I am writing are regional or not, how am I supposed to know what to ask (specifically)? –  Juan A. Navarro Nov 16 '11 at 12:48
    
As hippitrail mentioned, questions asking for resources (books, websites, guidelines, etc.) aren't constructive for this format. I've attempted to change the title to your second paragraph in order to prevent this from being closed. –  Richard Nov 16 '11 at 12:52
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I personally think there are certain ways to achieve this. But be aware that they are personal and subjective. I have been writing for a long time and I hope you find them useful.

  1. I seldom use the pronoun vosotros which is predominantly used in Spain and is considered overly formal in Latin America. I use it only when my purpose is formality and a distinguished character speaking. For instance someone speaking to a king.
  2. Don't use slang. Use only slang that you are certain will be understood in the spanish speaking world without sounding localized or weird. For instance cojones is a bad word choice for testículos. Try to use a sort of universal slang, in this case you could use bolas.
  3. Don't use voseo. That means don't use the pronoun vos. It is very localized to only some regions of the spanish speaking world as Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, etc... and of course this includes the conjugation of the words that go with it and the accents!
  4. In case of doubt look for the word at Real Academia Española. There will be the word definition and in probably 99% of cases will tell you if the word is localized to a country or region. (Except for words from Spain which may be a problem) For example:

    chévere.

    1. adj. Ant., Ec., Hond., Méx., Pan. y Perú. Primoroso, gracioso, bonito, elegante, agradable.

    2. adj. Á. Caribe, Bol., El Salv. y Hond. Estupendo, buenísimo, excelente.

    3. adj. Col., Cuba, Pan., Perú, R. Dom. y Ven. Benévolo, indulgente. Un profesor chévere. Un examen chévere.

    4. m. fest. P. Rico y Ven. petimetre.

    5. adv. m. Ven. magníficamente (‖ muy bien).

  5. Try to find people that speak spanish and are native speakers from various countries. I know difficult. But very useful once achieved, that way they can read your text and tell you if it sounds weird or correct to them. By weird I mean the word choice etc...

Bottom line: remember that all spanish speakers are raised in a different cultural context and managing a "neutral" spanish can prove to be a very difficult task since word choice usually differs greatly specially when spoken in slang. There is some degree of neutrality that can be achieved in overall Latin America with Colombian Spanish from Bogota (Source: Wikitravel) but that is highly relative. Although many studios of translation for tv shows are made there. But this "neutrality" is no longer considered neutral for someone from Spain. So there's a pretty big difference between spanish from Spain and from Latin America.

I hope this helps!

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I think the most neutral spanish in all senses (pronunciation, usage,...) is the one spoken in Madrid –  gumbo Nov 16 '11 at 13:58
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That's probably because you are from Madrid yourself. But as said, it is highly subjective, and wikitravel considers the one spoken in Bogota as the most neutral. Not to mention the RAE considering it very good aswell: Source Please be aware is the one in Bogota. Not in Colombia. –  Joze Nov 16 '11 at 14:28
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@gumbo: For example, there are very common words in Spain that in Argentina are strong 'bad words' (coger, concha). If someone is striving for a neutral spanish writing, he should be at least aware of it. –  leonbloy Nov 16 '11 at 15:32
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@gumbo The Castilian pronunciation of z and c is definitely not neutral in most of the rest of the Spanish-speaking world. –  Kevin K. Nov 16 '11 at 21:17
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The main problem is with commonly used words, which sometimes have very different meanings, like "coger" ("take" in Spain, "have sex" in parts of America) or "mujer" ("wife" in Spain, "lover" in parts of America). And it's difficult to know them all. –  MikMik Dec 27 '11 at 9:44
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