3. Writing for an International Audience
Follow these pointers to maximize the international appeal and comprehensibility of illustrations and screen examples.
- Use graphics instead of text wherever possible to illustrate a complex concept. Write text so that it complements the message conveyed by a graphic.
- Use graphics liberally. However, not everyone reads from left to right, so you should indicate the intended sequence in which a reader needs to refer to the graphics.
- Use graphics that are internationally acceptable.
For example, almost every country has its own type of power plug. Instead of illustrating each type of plug, use generic plugs and receptacles, as in Figure 3-1.
However, when describing various types of plugs and receptacles, illustrate and label the type used in each country, as shown in Figure 3-2.
Figure 3-1 Generic Plugs and Receptacles
Figure 3-2 International Plugs and Receptacles
- Leave ample space for callout text in graphics, as translated text may require more space than English text.
- Make certain that the callouts correlate to the paragraph text. Use callouts instead of text if the concept can be best understood graphically and needs little explanation.
- Use charts and tables to clarify essential information; they are internationally recognized by readers as containing important material.
- Format callouts so that you can edit them separately from the graphic.
- Do not use a hand in a symbolic gesture. Just about any way you position a hand can be considered an obscene gesture, depending upon the culture, as illustrated in Figure 3-3.
Figure 3-3 Possible Obscene Gestures
- When using screen snapshots or screen examples, make sure that the machine names, login names, and system names are not culturally offensive.
Use a generic example:
- Avoid using road signs in graphics, as they differ from country to country.
- Avoid references to alcohol or alcohol-related material, as this could be offensive.
- Be careful when using everyday objects in examples. Make sure that the object exists in most countries, and keep in mind that it may be interpreted in various ways in different parts of the world.
For example, a light bulb may be used to indicate light, but not the concept of an idea.
- Avoid using trendy objects, historical references, or film, cartoon, or other video characters.
- Avoid using animals, as they may carry symbolic significance.
- Consider the aesthetics of color and typography for different cultures.