Lost In Translation
I was on holiday in one of South Africa’s popular resorts. Think fake palm trees, fake stone walls and fake waves. Yes, I was enjoying all the glory that was Sun City. One of my favourite treats is the buffet breakfast. I was waiting to order my omelette, which is unmatched in any fake-palmed resort in the world, when I overheard an interesting conversation.
An Afrikaans woman, speaking less than average English was desperately trying to order a ‘baked egg’. The chef, who did not speak Afrikaans and spoke average English, was trying everything to figure out what she meant. This involved gesturing, demonstrating and a fair amount of charades before they both figured out she wanted a fried egg. (In Afrikaans, a fried egg is a ‘gebakte eier’ and if you translate it directly, it is a baked egg.)
Why is Plain Language so important to your business?
What is plain language?
6 Ways To Improve Your Business Writing
- Consider your audience: This will help you to decide what information to include or exclude.
- New news first: What is the new information you want to share? Start with that and back it up with the reasons or information they should already have.
- Re-evaluate your word choice: use the simplest word to explain what you want to say, e.g., instead of saying we will leverage our resources, try we will use our resources.
- Keep your sentences short: Shorter sentences mean you will avoid confusion by making fewer mistakes with your punctuation and tenses.
- Write in the active voice: Passive voice slows your reader down and can cause ambiguity.
- Use your readability statistics: Aim for a readability of 70% or higher in business writing.
Now this won’t solve all our language issues, but it will definitely help reduce the number of misunderstandings. When readers don’t understand your message they draw their own conclusions and this leads to confusion. Confusion wastes time and costs money. The fact the many South Africans are multi-lingual is a huge advantage for us as a country. Read this post to find out why.
Celebrate our multiple languages and change your writing to improve your messages and to communicate clearly. Your breakfast and your business will benefit.
If you want to learn how to write for business, join us for The Plain Language Programme.
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