Kay Xander Mellish

Kay Xander Mellish



Kay Xander Mellish is an experienced professional "foredragsholder" who has delighted audiences all over Denmark with her presentation How to Live in Denmark.  She can speak to your school, company, or community organizations about the big and small mistakes you should avoid if you want to speak smooth, professional English.


Kay's educational but light-hearted presentations are ideal for companies in the process of adopting English as a corporate language, as well as educational and language groups.


Kay tailors each speech to its audience, and has previously spoken to clients as diverse as the Folketing editorial team, the Rigspolitiet udlandshold, and the students at Herning Gymnasium.


In this two-part presentation with Dorte Lønsmann, an assistant professor at Copenhagen Business School who has researched English as a Corporate Language for more than 10 years, we discuss the pluses and minuses to making English your corporate language. 

Contact Kay to arrange a presentation for your group.

If you'd like to hire Kay for editorial work - copywriting, translation, editing or "sprogvask" - or for U.S. English voiceovers in Copenhagen, visit her KXMGroup website for more information. 



European professionals use English every day in their work, and they usually speak it very well. But English is a vibrant, constantly changing language, as anyone who's taken a look at the Urban Dictionary recently can testify. If you learned English 20 years ago - from a teacher who may have learned it 30 years before that - you may be speaking the English equivalent of a beehive hairdo.

Here are 5 ways English may have changed since you were in school - plus 4 words you should stop using right away. 

  1. British English is no longer considered the "gold standard". While many Europeans were taught that British English was the "correct" version of the language, American spelling and grammar is now much more widely recognized worldwide. And there's even more diversity in the language's future. There are now more speakers of English in Nigeria (79 million) than in the United Kingdom (65 million). The Philippines (90 million) and India (130 million) have even more. Expect Asian English and African English to increasingly influence global English vocabulary. Some linguists even speculate that English may split into separate languages, as Latin once did.
  2. Using "man" to represent both genders is outdated. While the old nature documentaries shown on weekend afternoons may still talk about "man versus the elements", these terms started to go out of fashion in the 1970s, shortly after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and proclaimed "This is one step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Mankind is no longer used at all: contemporary English speakers say humanity instead. "Manpower" has been replaced by staff, and a "four man team" can be rephrased as a four person team, unless you're writing a report on men's Olympic bobsledding.
  3. "He" is no longer used as a neutral pronoun - and he/she is on its way out. English lacks a useful neutral pronoun; "one" tends to sound either wildly poetic or royal and pompous ("One loves horses, but one does get tired of picking up after them."). Forty years ago, the go-to neutral pronoun was "he": "Every business owner knows he must please his customers." When that began to sound foolish, sometime around the 1980s, many respected newspapers began to use either the clumsy he/she ("Every business owner knows he/she must please his/her customers") or forcibly re-writing the sentence in plural ("All business owners know they must please their customers.") The new trend is the singular "they," which was named Word of the Year recently by a group of grammar experts, although its usage actually dates back to Shakespeare. It works like this: Every business owner knows they must please their customers.
  4. "-Ess" suffix words like Waitress have been replaced by gender-neutral terms. "Ess" added to a job role to indicate a female is filling it has gradually become outdated over the past 30 years, with waitress (now server) and stewardess (now flight attendant) shuffling off to join the already-dead "poetess", "sculptress," and "ambassadress." These days the "-ess" suffix is seen mostly in fantasy contexts (goddessseductress) and royal titles (princessdutchess). Another survivor is actress, perhaps because it is so prestigious to be named Best Actress at Cannes or at the Oscars. (And because if all the awards were put into one gender-neutral basket, there's no guarantee that women would win any at all.) That said, many women who have seriously studied the craft of theater or film performance prefer to be called actors.
  5. English vocabulary changes most quickly when it reflects social change. The ethnic and gender makeup of English-speaking countries is very different than it was a few decades ago, and this is reflected in the English language. Keeping up with the current terms can be challenging for a non-native speaker: "colored people," for example, is considered highly offensive, while "people of color" is seen as thoughtful and inclusive. Black and (in the U.S.) African-American are both acceptable - although the trend is towards the former - but Oriental is outmoded, replaced by Asian or specific country names, such as Taiwanese or Thai.

The gender diversity movement has also impacted the English language: Facebook currently offers more than 50 options for gender, and it is now common in some circles - especially U.S. academia - to ask during introductions "What's your preferred pronoun?" The once-common word transsexual is now used only in medical contexts (and in the Rocky Horror Picture Show): transgender is daily parlance for someone planning to or undergoing what used to be called a sex change and is now called transitioning, or gender correction.

Many native speakers stumble over these ongoing changes in English, and it can be even more challenging for a European who uses English as a second language to keep up with the "right" word to use without causing offense. If in doubt, check a recent edition of the New York Times and use what they use.




exclamation point usa copyright kay xander mellish



"When I get your texts, I edit out all those exclamation points," a marketing director of a highly successful Danish tech company was telling his American colleagues.

"They sound like shouting."

The U.S. colleagues, who had just completed my Working with Danes/Working with Americans workshop, shook their heads in bewilderment.

"Exclamation points represent excitement!" they said. "They give the text energy! They tell customers that we really believe in our product."


More than a punctuation mark

It doesn't help that the Danish word for this particular punctuation is udråbstegn, which translates directly to "yelling out sign."

An "exclamation", by contrast, can be positive in English. It represents surprise, amazement, energy, action.

While I don't think anyone argues that multiple exclamation points (Our new software is available now!!!) make for professional-sounding communication, this seemingly small dispute over a punctuation mark is part of a larger context.

Americans, for better or worse, tend to live life with an exclamation point.


Fear of the used car salesman

This can be good - it takes that kind of energy and drive to win 2521 Olympic medals - or it can be a bit over the top, as seen on President Trump's Twitter account.

But it is the American way, and Danish companies who insist on the subtle, Jantelov-influenced communication style that works in Denmark can be misunderstood in the American market as a lack of confidence in your product.

Danes deeply fear being seen as brugt bilsælger (used car salesmen), pushy sellers who make potential buyers uncomfortable. They like to believe that a good-quality product speaks for itself.

But Americans are used to over-the-top sales pitches. Although salespeople cannot lie outright (because the fearsome American litigation machine will then kick into gear), there are no limits on using amorphous, hard-to-pin down words like fun! useful! smart! life-changing! when you have something to sell.

When you're doing business with Americans, enthusiasm is key.


Mass market perfume

exclamation point perfume.jpg

Which leads us back to the exclamation point.

This form of punctuation is so beloved by Americans that a mass market perfume - complete with a bottle shaped like just like an exclamation point - has been popular since its introduction in 1988.

Although Danes and Americans probably won't agree on the use of the exclamation point any time soon, they can at least learn to understand what the other culture is saying when it uses this particular punctuation.

For Danes, an exclamation point means Pay Attention, now! This is important! Watch out! Danger!

For Americans, it means, Hey, look at this! Great stuff! Let's get this done! Or, sometimes, This is so much fun!


If you'd like me to come speak to your team about overcoming the differences between Danish and U.S. culture, book a Working with Danes/Working With Americans workshop.




Buy "Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English"

"Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English" is an entertaining guide to the small mistakes Danes make again and again when speaking or writing English. When should you say lend and when should you say borrow? What's the difference between effective and efficient? Does your business have customers or costumers? And why is competent not really a compliment in English? Based on Kay Xander Mellish's 17 years of correcting Danish corporate texts, this little book will help you feel more confident when speaking English.


Buy The PaperBack

The 88-page paperback version of "Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English" is a great gift for a new graduate or a student or colleague planning to live abroad. It also makes a great "kalendergave" or "mandelgave" around the holidays. 



The eBook version of "Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English" downloads immediately and can be read on any tablet or smartphone.  You can get it directly through our store or via Amazon, Saxo.com, the iTunes store or Google Play. 



You can listen to Kay Xander Mellish read the audio version of "Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English" on Amazon Audible or Saxo.com lydboger. We're also looking forward to making the audiobook available on Mofibo and Storytel as soon as possible.  



Den Danske Ordbog




Book Kay to speak to your group

If you would like to book Kay to speak to your audience, please fill out the form below.  You can also contact Kay to place a bulk order of "Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English."


Please complete the form below

Name *


"Tak til Kay for et underholdende indlæg til vores konference. Vi blev opdateret på den sproglige udvikling i amerikansk engelsk og ikke mindst forskellene i dansk og amerikansk kultur. Det er så vigtigt, at vi med sproguddannelser stadig følger med i den sproglige udvikling, især nu hvor sproglige uddannelser beskæres/nedlægges. Derfor er det godt, vi har Kay til at holde os ajour. Vi anbefaler hendes forestilling, hvor hun involverer deltagerne med humor og indsigt. ”



"Ved Sprogfestivalet på Herning Gymnasium udfoldede den dansk-amerikanske kommunkikationskonsulent og forfatter Kay Xander Mellish fængende med små indlagte challenges/udfordringer til eleverne, hvor danskere er udfordret i kommunikation på engelsk. Kay interagerede oprigtigt og interesseret med eleverne, som også responderede meget positivt på de indlagte challenges. Eleverne har efterfølgende evalueret oplægget fra Kay meget positivt. I vores perspektiv leverer Kay en fantastik sprogindsprøjtning til vores sprogbegejstrede elever i gymnasiet. Eleverne fandt oplægget yderest brugbart og relevant."

Read what the media says about Drop Dit Danglish.