ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

What is Global English?

The rules of what makes for good writing are universal. Good writing is clear, consistent and engaging to the reader. Writing for an audience that doesn’t speak English is no different. But how can written English be better adapted for universal understanding? How can you be sure that your message can translate all over the world? This is where the writing style known as global English proves to be a useful tool.

Global English is a style of writing that makes written English more easily understood by non-native speakers. Global English does this by being precise, logical and literal. It is the language of manual and technical writers who want their writing to be extremely clear to anyone who reads it.

Additionally, because of its transparency, global English is the preferred style of translators. The rules and guidelines of global English make it ideal for translation by either machine technology or humans.

This doesn’t mean that global English is only important for technical writers or translators to know about; any individual or any company that seeks to speak to a global audience should know what it means to write globally.


Global English vs. Standard English

Standard English, or the English native speakers use every day, is bursting with nuances and idiosyncrasies that are difficult to translate into foreign languages. Unique or unusual grammatical conventions like the passive voice and implicit pronouns create confusion quickly in translation. Global English modifies the rules of Standard English to eliminate that confusion.

These rules affect sentence structure, word order, verb tenses and much more. All of these guidelines operate to accomplish the same goal: to make writing in the English language as unambiguous as possible.

In global English, sentences are short. Word order is consistent and as predictable as possible. The passive voice is avoided. The relationship between the sentence’s subject and its modifiers is explicit. No metaphors or other types of figurative language are used. Everything is literal and logical.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the rules for writing globally. Nor are these rules hard and fast in every case. Yet they are an effective way to begin making your writing clearer and more suited for non-native English speakers.


Misconceptions of Global English

Global English does not attempt to make written English literally translate into other languages. Although the world’s languages have been found to share some remarkable similarities, the disparate grammar rules pertaining to word order make literal translation impossible. Following the above rules will not make your writing translate perfectly into Japanese (where objects come before the subject) or German (where subordinating conjunctions move the sentence’s verb to the end of the clause). No writing style can make English conform to the conventions of any or all other languages.

Another misconception about global English is that it must sound stilted or stiff to be “real” global English. On the contrary, if it sounds odd or unnatural to a native speaker, then it isn’t good or useful global writing.

Rather than making English sound like other languages or over-formalizing it, writing with a global audience in mind clarifies written English so that anyone can understand. That includes native speakers.


What Global English Means for Translation

If a piece of writing follows the guidelines of global English, it can be more easily followed by non-native speakers. Additionally, it is a style that is very easily translated into other languages. When sentences are short and there is little to no syntactical ambiguity, translation takes less time and money.

Translation technologies are able to translate global English more accurately and consistently. And if there are no ambiguous words or sentences that require clarification, human translators can complete projects faster. Writing in global English ensures that a piece of writing will translate smoothly into other languages along with being completed quicker and with less cost.

Learning how to use the global English style, whether you’re writing for a native or a non-native speaker, makes communicating clearer, faster and more effective.

For more information about global languages, differences in the written and spoken word, and more, explore our full blog. 

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