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When writing in English what is the benefit of loading babel, by \usepackage[english]{babel}, except for the possibility of setting it to use specific English dialects as described in babel: english, american, USenglish?

For example I know that biblatex, csquotes and microtype can work together with babel but their features seems to only make sense when writing in other languages than in English.

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you do not need babel, when you have a complete document in english. –  Herbert Sep 7 '11 at 7:57
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@Herbert: You do if you are in the UK –  Joseph Wright Sep 7 '11 at 9:42
    
sure, but that is not the option english from default TeX –  Herbert Sep 7 '11 at 9:48
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So it depends on whether your entire document is in English or in english. –  doncherry Sep 7 '11 at 9:58
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@N.N.: I was just joking a bit on how Herbert and Joseph used different meanings of "English": Herbert was referring to the LaTeX option english, which means American English, and Joseph was referring to the language English, which in Joseph's case means British English. Essentially, there's a reason for using babel if you're writing in British English (Joseph's point), and (according to Herbert) you don't need it if you're writing in American English. –  doncherry Sep 7 '11 at 19:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 22 down vote accepted

You should load babel if you're unsure about the default language. A system administrator in the UK may well have changed it to British English instead of US English (they have different hyphenation rules).

Assuming TeX Live is used (but also MiKTeX, I believe), lines such as

\usepackage[USenglish]{babel}
\usepackage[UKenglish]{babel}

will guarantee that the requested hyphenation rules are used during typesetting. Another use for babel is for choosing a not directly supported set of hyphenation patterns; for example,

\usepackage{hyphsubst}
\HyphSubstLet{english}{usenglishmax}
\usepackage[english]{babel}

will use the "maximal set" of US English hyphenation patterns (check your language.dat file for the exact string to use, usenglishmax is surely correct for TeX Live).

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Moreover, USenglish and UKenglish differ in the way quotation marks are used. For instance, \enquote of the csquotes package surrounds text with double quotation marks in case of USenglish, but with single quotation marks in case of UKenglish. –  mhp Sep 7 '11 at 9:09

Besides guaranteed proper hyphenation, if you load babel, you could access various useful shorthands related to hyphenation, such as provided by ngerman, even with english option:

  • \- hyphenation with suppressed hyphenation before and after the break point
  • "- hyphenation with enabled automatic hyphenation before and after the break point
  • "" for a hyphenation point without hyphen
  • "| like "- but with disabling ligatures, adding a small space
  • - (divis) for combined words
  • "~ for a dash where hyphenation is not allowed
  • "- for a dash where hyphenation is allowed, also before and after

For example:

\usepackage[ngerman,english]{babel}
\useshorthands{"}
\addto\extrasenglish{\languageshorthands{ngerman}}

This has been asked and solved here: Adding ngermans language shorthands to english as the main document language.

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