How to write for international audiences

English is without a doubt the lingua franca of the business world. English has a much higher geographical spread than other languages…

… is forecast to grow its number of speakers, and is the official standard language in industries like shipping and air navigation. Not only is English the first language of 1.2 billion people, but a further 600 or 700 million people use it every day as a foreign language.

Despite this, many native English-language writers struggle to communicate effectively with people whose first language is not English. At Baxter Lawley, we are used to writing for global audiences. Here are some of the key tips and tricks we have learnt along the way:

1. Avoid idiomatic expressions.

Many native writers make the mistake of using slang and colloquialisms, simply because they find it difficult to distinguish between neutral and culturally specific language. When writing for international audiences, it is best to avoid overly informal words.

2. Avoid wordiness.

If you can cut out a word from a sentence without affecting the meaning too much, do it. “In March…” says the same as “In the month of March…”.

3. Keep sentences simple.

Don’t use too many subordinate clauses. Keep in mind what it is you are trying to communicate in any given sentence. If a sentence is longer than 20 words, consider rewording it.

4. Use simple verb formats. 

Verbs are often the words that carry the most semantic force in a sentence. By keeping verbs simple, you make them easier to understand. Use “make” instead of “utilise”.

5. Be careful when using pronouns.

Pronouns are often difficult to translate. The French word “il” could mean “he” or “it” in English. In the same way, your choice of pronoun could be unclear to foreign speakers of English.

6. For technical texts, consider offering a glossary.

In some cases, it could be a good idea to include a list of definitions at the end of your text. Glossaries provide definitions of difficult words and phrases, as well as useful context.

Stay ahead of the game by remembering these rules. Or get in touch today, and we can do it for you. At Baxter Lawley, we will implement all six (and more) to help you to maximise your global reach. 

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By |June 25th, 2018|Tips & insights|Comments Off on How to write for international audiences
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