ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

Writing Global English: Beyond the Basics

Global English and writing for language translation is a valuable skill set that is related to, but also different from, good writing in Standard English. Taking simple steps like shortening sentences and limiting vocabulary goes a long way towards making your writing easier for non-native English speakers to translate and understand (you can learn more about the basics of writing global English here).

But global English skills go beyond sentence length and word choice. When writing for an international audience, other language and formatting considerations can make your copy all the more accessible to readers all over the world. Improve your global writing with the tips below.

Avoid Buzzwords when Writing Global English

Previously, we at ULG have taken a look at why colloquial expressions and idioms are near impossible to translate correctly. And one of the first rules of good global writing is not using idiomatic or metaphorical expressions that require a particular cultural context to understand.

But some areas of specialized, culturally specific language are not as easy to spot as idioms. In particular, corporate jargon often goes unnoticed by native English speakers as a problem for their international readers.

New and trendy buzzwords will not have direct equivalents in another language. They also won’t be featured in most dictionaries or language guides, making them difficult for your readers or professional translators. Don’t use them in your global writing.

Use Formatting to Your Advantage

Translating writing changes more than just the language. The size and formatting of a document is going to change radically. Preparing for those changes will save time down the line.

Expect your text to expand with translation. On average, you can expect your character/word count to grow by around 25%. As you are writing and formatting, leave some “white” or blank space at the end of your document to accommodate these changes.

Breaking up paragraphs with shorter modes of writing is also a plus. Bulleted or numbered lists are a great way to distill information quickly while also saving on your word count, all of which will minimize your translation costs.

Carefully Consider your File Types

There are many types of files that are fairly well known and standard across all industries, and many translation service providers can work within a number of document types. But if you have a piece of writing that you want to translate into other languages for a global audience, consider the file format that is favored by most professional translators.

Extensible Markup Language, or XML, is a file format designed to work universally on all kinds of hardware and software. In XML, text is embedded in code similar to HTML. It is incredibly easy for translators to use as they can edit text and formatting in a single window.

While other standard file types like Microsoft Word documents can seemingly work universally, sending a translator an XML file can save hours of back-end engineering for you and your translators.

Writing global English involves much more than not using idioms and multiple clauses, it’s a style and set of considerations that optimize text for translation and non-native English speakers. Be smart with your jargon, formatting and file types and make it all the easier to launch your writing and your brand onto the global stage.