3. Writing for an International Audience

Grammar and Word Usage

Follow these guidelines for grammar and word usage to ensure that your document can be accurately and easily translated.

    Good: Place a screwdriver in the groove.

    Poor: Place screwdriver in groove.

    Good: Place the file in a folder.

    Poor: File the file in a file folder.

    Using "file" as a verb, noun, and adjective is confusing to translators, who may have to use a different word in each case. This is an extreme example, but try not to use the same term in different ways. Also, do not use several terms to refer to the same thing.

    "When the prompt appears" implies that the prompt will appear.

    "If the prompt appears" implies that the event may or may not occur.

    Consider the differences in meaning for the following two sentences:

      Note the ready light that appears on the front panel. (restrictive)

      Note the ready light, which appears on the front panel. (nonrestrictive)

    In the first sentence, the reader is told to note the ready light on the front panel - not the one on the side panel or back panel, but the one specifically on the front panel.

    In the second sentence, the reader is told merely to note the ready light; the sentence also states that the light happens to be on the front panel, implying that there is no other ready light anywhere else. The minor difference in meaning could confuse translators or non-native speakers of English.

    For example, "first-come, first-served" is ambiguous. If possible, rewrite as "in the order received" or "in the order in which they are received."

    Unclear: When the results were announced by the researchers, they were questioned by the other experts in the field.

    Does "they" refer to the results or to the researchers? For clarity, rewriting the sentence is often necessary (especially to avoid repeating the noun).

    Awkward: When the results were announced by the researchers, the results were questioned by other experts in the field.

    Better: Other experts in the field questioned the results announced by the researchers.

    
    
    
    
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