Guideline B: Writing for an international audience

B3: Style



Style


Guideline B3-1


Keep sentences as short and simple as possible.

Do not make sentences too long. Sentences should be less than 25 words. Sentences need not be artificially short, but they should have a simple structure. Divide a long and complicated sentence into several sentences. Do not construct a sentence that contains a series of concepts separated by commas, because they are difficult to read and translate. Use a list instead, which also helps to avoid ambiguity in the relationships of the elements of sentences.


Bad: (1 sentence, 43 words) Wireless LAN (WLAN) solutions from IBM offer flexible network environments that greatly benefit our mobile population by providing roaming capabilities for staff in our office building or in a campus environment, and providing low-cost wireless infrastructure to facilitate increased teamwork and improved efficiency.
Better: (an introductory clause and list with 3 bullets, each less than 25 words) Wireless LAN (WLAN) solutions from IBM offer the following advantages:
- Flexible network environments that greatly benefit our mobile population
- Roaming capabilities for staff in our office building or in a campus environment
- Low-cost wireless infrastructure to facilitate increased teamwork and improved efficiency

Guideline B3-2


Avoid slang, jargon, humor, sarcasm, colloquialism, metaphor, and informal everyday language.

These words are often ambiguous, and therefore difficult to translate. Language varies the most in informal everyday usage.

Slang is never appropriate and can be offensive if misunderstood. Jargon is often used locally and will not be widely understood. If the translator needs clarification, jargon and slang terms are seldom in dictionaries and reference manuals. Humor is very subjective, and varies from country to country. Humor, irony, and sarcasm can hinder communication, where the recipient may not understand that you were merely injecting humor.

Example: The sentence Enter < Enter > to enter enter is humorous, but does not translate well, if at all, into other languages.

Example:

Bad: Keep your password tucked away in a safe place.
Better: Keep your password hidden in a safe place.

Guideline B3-3


Be concise.

The extra time you spend removing unnecessary text and redundancies that do not add value is more than compensated for by the decreased cost of translation.

Example:

Wordy: It is the DB2 Performance Expert that consolidates reports and recommends changes.
More Concise: The DB2 Performance Expert consolidates reports and recommends changes.

Example:

Wordy: There are four rules that should be observed:
More Concise: Four rules should be observed:

Example:

Wordy: In the event that
More Concise: If

Guideline B3-4


Do not ask negatively phrased questions.

Negatively phrased questions are often misunderstood by the reader. Depending on the language and culture, some people answer yes or its equivalent for an affirmative answer, while other people will answer no or its equivalent for the same affirmative answer. In addition, the correspondence between yes and no and their equivalent national language words may not be the same for negative questions as for positive questions.

A positive response to a negatively phrased question in French is non not oui.


Language Question Answer
English You are not sick? Yes, I am sick.
French Vous n'êtes pas malade? Non, je suis malade.