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.
- 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.
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.