When your website’s copy has to go across oceans
Today, English happens to be the language used by over 80% websites. So, what do you do if your online business has a global coverage and you need to get yourself understood even to those not native English speakers? Communicate through a limited English!
Here are some suggestions to get through to those who are not native English speakers:
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1. Use short sentences. 15 or tops 20 words. Be straight forward, direct sentences are the best. Example:
2. Use simple sentences.The first words in a sentence must be the subject, the predicate, the complement and then other words. Example:
3. Use active voice. If you use passive voice, you will risk achieving an ambiguous text. Example:
“Designious.com is loved by creative professionals!” (passive voice)
4. Avoid using auxiliary verbs and phrase verbs. Phrase verbs are formed out of more than one word and are confusing. You’d better choose only one word that will express the same thing. Modal auxiliary verbs include: should, could, can, would, might and may. Example:
“Someone from our website should contact you within 48 hours.” – wrong
“Someone from our website will contact you within 48 hours.” – correct
This means that they will contact you, they might not contact you, they have the moral obligation to contact you or that it might take a while longer than 48 hours to contact you. Native English readers will understand these words by context. They are confusing for those who are not native English speakers.
5. Use pronouns clearly. Example:
“They are confusing for those who are not native English speakers.”
That “they” refers to a noun in the previous sentence, but what does it refer to, the “words” or the “native English readers”?
6. Use regular, simple words, with clear meanings.
7. Use a positive language. Don’t complicate yourself with various negative constructions which are difficult to translate.
8. Avoid cliches and slang. Do you realize what a slang expression means to someone that doesn’t speak English well? Absolutely nothing.
9. Mind your spelling! It’s very important that your copy doesn’t have typos and grammar mistakes – your online audience is very sensitive when it comes to these things, you will lose their trust and they will not buy from you.
10. Ask for a second opinion. If you know anyone who’s a native English speaker, ask him to read your text and to check if it’s clear enough or you misused some words. This aspect is very important, especially if you use a funny expressions.
Tip: If you want to see a good example of using English as an international language, read an article from The International Herald Tribune, an online news paper which writes in English for a global public.