Welcome to the Global Perspectives series! Over the next several Wednesdays, communications professionals from around the world will be providing their advice on communicating internationally and in their country/region.
Today’s guest blog is from Jenan Al-haddad. Jenan has spent 16 years working in the area of communications and marketing specialising in the not-for-profit, in the international sector. Most recently Jenan held the role of Senior Communications and Marketing Manager for the International Baccalaureate. She also volunteers as a Justice of the Peace for Cardiff and the Vale bench in South Wales where she lives with her husband and two sons.
I found myself recently being asked to review a press release that was destined for an international audience. By the time it hit my desk, it had been written, re-rewritten and written again by at least 7 different people ranging from board members, directors and communications staff. It required approval by 10 different people but more about bureaucracy in international organizations at a later date!!
As I read the release, I made some minor changes; always considering how it would be received across the 100 plus countries it was headed. I reached a section that talked about where a particular person had grown up. It was written ‘Dr. X was raised in Country Y…’ This phrase had been highlighted with a comment amending the sentence to ‘Dr. X was reared in Country Y’. The comment had been made by a colleague in the US. I considered my understanding of the phrase ‘to rear’ and thought of some farmer friends of mine who do pretty well rearing pigs. Hang on! Am I really now thinking about pigs?! Surely farm animals are reared and children are raised? A number of different dictionaries provided no help whatsoever. ‘Rear, verb: to care for young animals or children until they are able to care for themselves’. It struck me that this was a perfect example of the idiosyncrasies of writing for a number of different countries, even those where English is the native tongue as was the case here. My colleague’s phrase was grammatically correct but the sentence didn’t sound right. So considering how this phrase would be received across a number of the audiences I decided to remove the controversial item altogether. Conveniently, the press release was far too long anyway.
This relatively minor issue served to remind me of how critical it is to consider how information is received across continents. In John Kohl’s book, ‘The Global English Style Guide’ the author states that the cardinal rule of Global English is “Don’t make any change that will sound unnatural to native speakers of English.” Furthermore “There is almost always a natural-sounding alternative if you are creative enough (and if you have enough time) to find it!” Therefore, when writing for an international audience I always try to keep my sentences short and concise. Always avoid colloquialisms and then apply Coyle Communications top tips for dealing with the media in an international context! Follow these rules and you will have a recipe for success!