Translate Your Message

In a business writing seminar this week we talked about global communication. The topic meant something to the attendees, who work in an international company with employees in 18 countries.

I asked seminar participants to review the writing samples they had brought, looking for words that might confuse a global audience. Two people immediately found phrases to revise.

One confusing phrase was "cascade a message down." The writer meant "communicate a message to employees," and he decided to use those words instead.

Another example was "software for capturing information." When she thought about it, the writer decided to replace capturing with recording. Although both words have several meanings for a global reader to consider, recording seemed the better choice because a common meaning of capture is "seize by force." She did not want to lead the reader mistakenly to that conclusion.

Sometimes the simplest words (such as right, take, and give) have the most meanings and can therefore confuse people who must translate your work. (For more about this problem, see my entry "Do You Like My Dressing?") To communicate your meaning clearly to your readers around the globe, choose a word with the precise meaning you intend.

If you speak several languages, you may want to try Babel Fish Translation. Insert your text in English, and have the program translate your text into another language you speak. If the translation is accurate, you will know you have used language that is likely to be recognized by global readers.