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Here are some basic guidelines to help you write international English:

■ Use clear, easy-to-understand sentences, not rambling, complex ones. That

does not mean you write insultingly short and simple sentences but that you
take into account that readers will find your message easier to translate if
your sentences do not exceed fifteen to twenty words.
■ Do not try to pack too much information into a single sentence; consider
using two or more sentences instead. (See pages 67–72.)
■ Avoid jargon, idioms (e.g., “to line one’s pockets”), and abbreviations (e.g.,
“FEMA”) that international readers may not know.
■ Choose clear, commonly used words that unambiguously translate into
the non-native speaker’s language. Avoid flowery or pretentious language
(“amend” for “change”).
■ Select visuals and icons that are free from cultural bias and that are not taboo
in the non-native speaker’s country. (For more on this, see pages 503–507.)
■ When in doubt, consult someone from the native speaker’s country—a
co-worker or an instructor, for example.

TABLE 2.1 Wordy Phrases and Their Concise Equivalents

Wordy Concise
at a slow rate slowly
at an early date soon
at this point in time now
based on the fact because
be in agreement with agree
bring to a conclusion conclude, end
come to terms with agree, accept
despite the fact that although
due to the fact that because
during the course of during
express an opinion that affirm
for the period of for
has the capability to can
in communication with communicate
in connection with about
in such a manner so that
in the area/case/field of in
in the event that if
in the month of May in May
in the neighborhood of approximately, about
it is often the case that often
it is our understanding that we understand that
look something like resemble
of the opinion that think that
on the grounds that because
open the conversation with open, begin with
serve in the capacity of serve as
until such time as until
with reference to regarding, about
with the result that so

p.102-103 Example

Replace sexist words with neutral ones.

Businessman businessperson
cameraman photographer
chairman chair, chairperson
congressman representative
craftsman skilled worker
divorcιe divorced person
fireman firefighter
foreman supervisor
housewife homemaker
landlord, landlady owner
maiden name family name
mailman, postman mail carrier
man-hours work-hours
mankind humanity, human beings
manpower strength, power
policeman police officer
repairman repair person
salesman salesperson, clerk
spokesman spokesperson

Eliminate sexist salutations. Never use the following salutations when you are
unsure of who your readers are:
■ Dear Sir

■ Gentlemen

■ Dear Madam
Any woman in the audience will surely be offended by the first two greetings and
may also be unhappy with the pompous and obsolete madam. It is usually best to
write to a specific individual, but if you cannot do that, direct your letter to a particular
department or group: Dear Warranty Department or Dear Selection Committee.
Be careful, too, about using the titles Miss, Mr., and Mrs. Sexist distinctions are
unjust and insulting. It is preferable to write Dear Ms. McCarty rather than Dear
Miss or Mrs. McCarty. A woman’s marital status should not be an issue. Try to
find out if the person prefers Ms. to another courtesy title (e.g., Editor Hawkins,
Supervisor Jones). If you are in doubt, write Dear Indira Kumar.

Watch masculine pronouns. Avoid using the masculine pronouns (he, his,
him) when referring to a group that includes both men and women.
Every worker must submit his travel expenses by Monday.
Workers may include women as well as men, and to assume that all workers are
men is misleading and unfair to women. You can edit such sexist language in
several ways.
a. Make the subject of your sentence plural and thus neutral.
Workers must submit their travel expenses by Monday.
b. Replace the pronoun his with the or a or drop it altogether.
Every employee is to submit a travel expense report by Monday.
Every worker must submit travel expenses by Monday.
c. Use his or her instead of his.
Every worker must submit his or her travel expenses by Monday.
d. Reword the sentence using the passive voice.
All travel expenses must be submitted by Monday.

Discourteous Courteous
We must discontinue your service unless Please send us your payment by November 4
payment is received by the date shown. so that your service will not be interrupted.
You are sorely mistaken about We are sorry to learn about the difficulty
the contract. you experienced over the service terms in
your contract.
The new iPad you sold me is third-rate Since the iPad is still under warranty, I hope
and you charged first-rate prices. you can make the repairs easily and quickly.
It goes without saying that your suggestion It was thoughtful of you to send me your
is not worth considering. suggestion, but, unfortunately, we are
unable to implement it right now.

Pompous Contemporary
aforementioned previously mentioned
as per your request as you requested
at this present writing now
I am in receipt of I have received
contingent upon the receipt of as soon as we receive
be advised that for your information
due to the fact that because
endeavor try
forthwith at once
henceforth after this
herewith; heretofore; hereby (drop these three h’s entirely)
immediate future soon
in lieu of instead of
pursuant concerning
remittance payment
under separate cover I’m also sending you
we regret to inform you that we are sorry that

Guidelines for Communicating with International Readers

1. Use common, easily understood vocabulary. Write in basic, simplified English.
Choose words that are widely understood. Whenever you have a choice, use
the simpler word. For example, use stop, not refrain; prevent, not forestall; happy,
not exultant.
2. Avoid ambiguity. Words that have double meanings force non-native readers
to wonder which one you mean. For example, “We fired the engine” would
baffle your readers if they were not aware of the multiple meanings of fire. Unfamiliar
with the context in which fire means “start up,” a non-native speaker of
English might think you’re referring to “setting on fire or inflaming,” which is not
what you intend. Or because fire can also mean “dismiss” or “let go,” a non-native
speaker of English might even suspect the engine was replaced by another model.
Such misinterpretations are likely because most bilingual dictionaries list only a few
Be especially careful of using synonyms just to vary your word choice. For
example, do not write quick in one sentence and then, referring to the same action,
describe it as rapid. Your reader may assume you have two different things in mind
instead of just one.
3. Be careful about technical vocabulary. While a reader who is a non-native
speaker may be more familiar with technical terms than with other English words,
make sure the technical word or phrase you include is widely known and not a
word or phrase used only at your plant or office. Double-check by consulting the
most up-to-date manuals and guides in your field, but steer clear of technical terms
in fields other than the one with which your reader is familiar. Be especially careful
about using business words and phrases that an international reader may not know,
such as lean manufacturing, reverse mortgages, best practices, toxic assets, and so
4. Avoid idiomatic expressions. Idioms are the most difficult part of a language
for an audience of non-native speakers to master.
6. Don’t use unfamiliar abbreviations, acronyms, or contractions. While these
shortened forms of words and phrases are a part of U.S. business culture, they
might easily be misunderstood by a non-native speaker who is trying to make sense
of them in context or by looking them up in a foreign language dictionary. Avoid
abbreviations such as pharm., gov., org., pkwy., rec., hdg., hr., mfg., or w/o. The
following acronyms can also cause your international reader trouble: ASAP, PDQ,
p’s and q’s, IRA, SUV, RV, DOB, DOT, SSN. If you have to use acronyms, define
them. Finally, contractions such as the following might lead readers to mistake
them for the English words they look like: I’ve (ivy), he’ll (hell), I’ll (ill), we’ll
(well), can’t (cant), won’t (wont, want).
7. Watch units of measure.
8. Avoid culture-bound descriptions of place.
9. Keep your sentences simple and easy to understand. Short, direct sentences
will cause a reader whose native language is not English the least amount of trouble.
A good rule of thumb is that the shorter and less complicated your sentences,
the easier and clearer they will be for a reader to process. Long (more than fifteen
words) and complex (multiclause) sentences can be so difficult for readers to unravel
that they may skip over them or simply guess at your message. Do not, however,
be insultingly childish, as if you were writing to someone in kindergarten. Also,
always try to avoid the passive voice. It is one of the most difficult sentence patterns
for a non-native speaker to comprehend. Stick to the common subject-verb-object
pattern as often as possible.
10. Be cautious about style and tone. Culture plays a major role in how you word
your message. Americans expect business letters to be concise and to the point,
without flowery compliments and personal details. They want to see conclusions
and recommendations up front, followed by descriptions of key items leading to
the main point. Readers in other cultures, however, would find this approach offensive.
For instance, German readers expect long letters that unfold slowly through a
highly factual and scrupulously documented narrative of events, all of which would
lead to a recommendation at the end of the letter. Japanese or Korean readers, unlike
American or German readers, expect the first paragraph or two of a letter to
center on the friendship and respect the writer has for the reader
11. Use appropriate salutations, complimentary closes, and signature lines. Find
out how individuals in the recipient’s culture are formally addressed in a salutation
(e.g., Seρor, Madame, Frau, Monsieur). Unless you are expressly asked to use a first
name, always use your reader’s surname and include proper titles and other honorifics
(e.g., Doctor, Sir, Father). For a complimentary close, use an appropriately
formal one, such as Respectfully, which is acceptable in almost any culture.

Transitional, or Connective, Words and Phrases

Addition Additionally again along with also and as well as
Besides first, second, third furthermore in addition many
Moreover next together with too what’s more

Cause/effect Accordingly and so as a result because of

Consequently due to hence if
On account of since therefore thus

Contrast But conversely equally however
In contrast in the same way likewise on the contrary
On the other hand similarly still yet

Conclusion All in all altogether as we saw at last finally

In brief in conclusion in short in summary last
On the whole to conclude to put into perspective to summarize to wrap up

Condition Although depending even though

Granted that if of course
Provided that to be sure unless

Emphasis Above all after all again as a matter of fact as I said

For emphasis indeed in fact in other words obviously
Of course surely to repeat to stress unquestionably

Illustration For example for instance in effect

In other words in particular specifically
that is to demonstrate to illustrate

Place Across from adjacent to alongside of at this point behind

Below beyond here in front of next to
Over there under where wherever

Time Afterward at length at the same time at times beforehand

currently during earlier
Formerly hereafter later meanwhile next
now once presently
Previously soon simultaneously subsequently then
until when while

Using Numerals versus Words

Write out numbers as words rather than numerals in these situations:
■ to begin a sentence
Nineteen ninety-nine was the first year of our recruitment drive.
■ to indicate the first number when two numbers are used together
The company needed eleven 9-foot slabs.
But use numerals, not words, in these situations:
■ with abbreviations, percentages, symbols, units of measurement, dates
17 percent 11:30 a.m. 70 ml
December 3, 2012 $250.00 50 K
for page references
pp. 56–59
■ for large numbers
3,000,000 23,750 1,714
Use both numerals and words when you want to be as precise as possible in a contract
or a proposal.
We agreed to pay the vendor an extra twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per hour to finish the
job by May 18.