English is the main language of Business. It has a higher geographical spread than other languages, will likely grow its number of speakers, and is the official standard language of various industries like diplomacy and air control. It is the main language of 1.2 billion people, but also an extra 600 or 700 million people use it every day as a second or third language language.
The key things
Nevertheless, many native English-language writers find it difficult to communicate effectively with people whose first language is not English. At Hidden Champion, we are used to writing for global audiences. Here are some of the key things to bear in mind:
1. Don’t use idioms
Many native writers integrate slang and colloquialisms, simply because they find it difficult to distinguish between neutral and language specific to a culture. When writing for international audiences, it is best to avoid words that are too informal, such as “cheeky” or “snazzy”.
2. Don’t repeat unnecessarily
If you can cut out a word from a sentence without affecting the meaning too much, do it. “In March…” means the same as “In the month of March…”.
3. Make sentences simple
Make 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. Easy.
4. Use simple verb formats
Verbs are often the words that carry the most semantic force in a sentence. Keep them easy to understand. For example, use “dig” instead of “excavate”.
5. Use pronouns carefully
Pronouns are often not easy 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. Have you thought of using a glossary?
Sometimes, it could be a good idea to include a list of definitions at the end of your text. Think your readers outside the UK won’t know what NHS is? Tell them at the end that it means National Health Service. Glossaries provide definitions of difficult words and phrases, as well as useful context.
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