Writing for a global audience

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Putting it simply shouldn't be difficult. With global business comes global content and it is important to tailor that content to a wider audience.

Here are a few tips to ensure your content isn't lost in translation;

1. Write short and simple sentences. Avoid using more than 20 words in a sentence. Shorter sentences are easier to translate.

2. Avoid colloquialisms, idioms and slang. Many local expressions are unfamiliar and will not translate well. The same can be said for slang words and idioms.  Being "Over the moon" might have a completely different meaning to a non-English speaker.

3. Be direct. You might want to impress your readers with your command of the English language but try not to be too descriptive, or too detailed.   

4. Be consistent. Use the same word to describe the same action. Don't change it for another word half way through the content.  If you want the user to "press" play on a video, don't ask them to "start" play or "hit" play later on in the content. Also be consistent with style and formatting.

5. Use an active voice. "Annie changed the song" rather than "The song was changed by Annie" -- the passive voice is awkward and will confuse in translation. 

6. Make sure your grammar is correct. Many non-English speakers who are learning the language have a much better grasp of grammar than native English speakers. That's because there is a greater focus on grammar in their tuition. Reading something that is grammatically inaccurate can be very misleading.  

7. Avoid negatives. Using a sentence like; "You don't know where Mary got that song, do you?" can be hard to follow and may provide broken translation.  Be straightforward; "Where did Mary get that song?"

8. Have a glossary. Developing glossaries of terms and abbreviations is a good tool for bringing context, particularly if you have a service or product that dictates further explanation.  

The take away? Don't let your content suffer to satisfy a wider audience.  You should still write engaging, interesting content.  Be structured, concise, straightforward and grammar conscious and you're well on the way to engaging a global audience.