Writing for Internationalization

Writing with inter­na­tion­al­iza­tion in mind enables con­tent to meet the require­ments of audi­ences that dif­fer in cul­ture, cus­tom and language. 

Following all our best prac­tices will help broad­en your reach when writ­ing for a glob­al audi­ence, but more specifically:

  • Use sim­ple sen­tences as much as pos­si­ble. We can’t say it enough: keep it clear and concise.
  • Adhere to par­al­lel struc­ture to main­tain con­sis­ten­cy for non-native speak­ers when pre­sent­ing infor­ma­tion and data.
  • Avoid acronyms, jar­gon, idioms, puns and metaphors. They don’t trans­late well. 
    • Watch out for the fre­quent offend­ers — sports metaphors and cul­tur­al ref­er­ences — like band­wag­on fan” or old-school traditions.”
  • Avoid hol­i­day ref­er­ences. They’re often cul­ture-spe­cif­ic and car­ry reli­gious undertones.
    • The phrase he was as excit­ed as a kid on Christmas morn­ing” can be alien­at­ing for some­one who doesn’t cel­e­brate Christmas.
  • Use mul­ti­cul­tur­al names and examples. 
  • Leave some extra space and be mind­ful of length. Translated text usu­al­ly results in con­tract­ed or expand­ed content. 
    • If you’re writ­ing for prod­uct, work with your design­er to make sure you aren’t com­pro­mis­ing lay­out and structure.

The default is always American English, but there are some extra con­sid­er­a­tions for tar­get­ing a spe­cif­ic audi­ence based on locale. Here’s a quick check­list to cov­er the basics.

  • Double check your spelling. It could be as sim­ple as a let­ter change or as com­plex as an entire­ly dif­fer­ent word alto­geth­er. Google search­es will be your friend here. Some com­mon examples:
    • Words end­ing in or,” like col­or” ver­sus colour”
    • Words end­ing in yze” or ize,” such as ana­lyze” ver­sus analyse”
    • Words end­ing in er,” for exam­ple cen­ter” ver­sus cen­tre”
    • Words with l”s, like can­celed” ver­sus can­celled”
    • Medical terms like ortho­pe­dic” ver­sus orthopaedic”
    • Plants and pro­duce such as cilantro” ver­sus corian­der,” or egg­plant” ver­sus aubergine”
  • Take anoth­er look at your sub­ject-verb agree­ment when ref­er­enc­ing sports teams and organizations.

Manchester United is the best.

In the U.S., the concept of a team is singular.

Manchester United are the best.

In other locations, the concept of a team is considered plural.

  • Think about con­vert­ing mea­sure­ments to the met­ric system.
    • Your read­ers might not know the dis­tance of a yard, what 80 degrees Fahrenheit feels like, or how heavy 120 pounds is.
  • Adjust the for­mat of dates, times, num­bers and address­es as needed.
    • For inter­na­tion­al dates, we use the for­mat of day, month, year”: 27 January 2020. Stay away from num­bers-only for­mats and nev­er short­en the year to two digits.
    • Only include the time zone when the time per­tains to a spe­cif­ic loca­tion that isn’t local.
    • Be aware that inter­na­tion­al calls require coun­try codes and that inter­na­tion­al phone num­bers fluc­tu­ate in num­ber of digits.
    • Postal/​ZIP codes also range in length. Make sure you des­ig­nate the coun­try on an address if it’s not local.
  • Update any cur­ren­cy to reflect local val­ue. Quarters, dimes and nick­els don’t mean any­thing out­side of the U.S.!

Being a glob­al sports com­pa­ny, we have to rec­og­nize the world’s term for what Americans call soc­cer. If we have an inter­na­tion­al audi­ence, and we’re refer­ring to the sport with cor­ner kicks and drib­bling with your feet, we use the term glob­al foot­ball.” When refer­ring to the sport with quar­ter­backs and touch­downs, we use the term American foot­ball.” Regardless of the sport, you need to differentiate.

Elite football teams use Hudl.

Don’t leave the sport open to interpretation.

Elite global football teams use Hudl.

Do use a qualifier.

Now in instances with U.S. leagues or brands, we can still use soc­cer because there’s a qual­i­fi­er, i.e., NCAA soc­cer or U.S. club soccer.

Basically, regard­less of whether you’re call­ing it foot­ball” or soc­cer,” it needs a qual­i­fi­er for clarity’s sake.

Last Updated: 26 May 2020 at 2:43pm CDT