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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
Creating technical documents for an international audience requires not only writing in simple “international” English, but also removing all sources of possible mistranslation and misunderstanding.
Here is a short check list to prepare your documents for a global audience:
- Are your dates obvious enough? HINT: write the month openly. 1/2/2010 could be Jan 2, 2010 or Feb 1, 2010.
- Does your document have any culturally-specific references that cannot be translated successfully? Remove them. “Delegate authority when you find yourself behind the eight ball” does not make any sense to non-American readers. Try: “Delegate authority when you are under pressure.”
- Have you written the open form of all acronyms the first time the acronym is used? Don’t assume everyone knows what IRS or ASAP stands for.
- Have you clearly stated all measurement units in writing? 4′ can be “4 hours” or “4 feet” yet can also be understood as “4 meters” or “4 days” on the other side of the ocean. Write your units openly as text to eliminate all misunderstanding.
- Define special numbers clearly, the first time you use them. What you understand from a “quadrillion” may not be the same thing as how your readers understand it. Don’t assume universal consensus on such numbers.
- Do you use an alphabetical list? Are you sure the sequence of letters will survive the translation? What if the other alphabet does not have the letter “J”, or “X”?