ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

5 Rules For Global English Writing

It takes many different steps and tools for your business to reach a global audience. Whether you’re marketing a product to international consumers or internally relaying corporate information to your company’s global offices, it takes scalable infrastructures and a strong, multilingual online presence to get your message out to the world.

But before you can start examining how to best broadcast your content to the world, you have to take a look at the message itself. Is your message written with a global audience in mind?

Global English, a writing style that makes English as accessible and as easily translatable as possible, is the best way to ensure that your message will effectively reach your intended audience all around the world. When composing or editing content, follow these 5 rules to make your English writing more global.

     1) Don’t Use Idioms

Figures of speech and idioms can even vary radically among different countries that speak English. And idioms in any language are so particular to their originating countries that even if they were to be translated literally word for word, they would be completely bewildering for anyone outside that national context. When writing for a global audience, avoid idioms like the plague.

     2) Be Literal in All Other Aspects of Your Writing

Global English avoids anything that cannot be easily understood by a non-native speaker of English. Colloquial or everyday English is full of metaphors other forms of figurative speech that are less obvious than cultural idioms. While a native speaker can understand what it means “to cut down” on costs or “to stay on target” or “to keep you posted,” non-native speakers will have more difficulty with such phrases and translators will find them next to impossible to convey them accurately into another language. So examine your word choice carefully as you write.

     3) Keep Your Sentences Short and Clear

The ultimate goal of the global English style is absolute clarity in a piece of writing. Your sentences should be short, succinct and complete. A general rule is that a sentence should be no longer than 25 words. You shouldn’t write in fragments, but you should keep sentences with multiple clauses to a relative minimum. Although this can get difficult if you’re writing technical instructions or explaining complex concepts, forcing yourself to write short  sentences will ultimately keep things clear and precise.

     4) Standardize Your Global English Terminology

On the subject of precision, the words you use should have precise and limited definitions. An example of this would be describing an estimate as “rough.” Given the multiple implications of the word “rough,” it’s clearer to use the word “approximate” in this context. Also be sure that a single word isn’t be used in multiple ways within one document or, conversely, that you’re not using multiple words to convey the same thing. Especially if you want a piece of writing to be translated, managing how you and your company use certain words will make the process of translation faster as well as less expensive.

     5) Don’t Be Afraid of Drastic Revising

The above rules are not typically things we consider when writing in English for native speakers, so at first converting over to the style of global English can be daunting and take multiple drafts. Some sentences may even require complete overhauls in order for them to be understood by a global audience. Don’t worry if it takes time to figure out how to articulate a particular thought or phrase an instruction. Taking the time during the writing process to get it right will save you time (as well as money) later on.

At ULG, we understand fully how important it is to make all writing accessible and understandable to everyone, everywhere. We know that learning how to communicate on a global scale is an indispensable skill. Follow these rules, have some patience and see how your message can spread around the world.