Cleaning Up “Spots” for Global Readers

Because I appreciate having blog and newsletters readers around the world, I try to recognize words and expressions that do not translate well. Spot is one of those words. I have found it in a variety of pieces I have written, and it is time to clean up those spots for people who read English as a second, third, or fourth language.

This example appeared in my email tips booklet:

Get a second opinion before sending an important email. Another person can often spot errors, omissions, or problems in tone.

When I revised the booklet, I changed spot to see.

I wrote a blog post titled "How to Spot Spam." I should have written "How to Recognize Spam."

In another post, I wrote this sentence about a client: "He schedules follow-up on the spot." To be clear to an international audience, I should have written, "He schedules follow-up immediately."

Someone commented on one of my blog posts this way: "Your explanation hit the spot to answer my immediate question." Rather than hitting the spot, the writer might have said my explanation "was perfect" or "was very helpful."

Writing to a friend, I described a national historic park on the island of Hawaii as "an awesome spot." Had I been writing for a larger audience, I might have written simply "a beautiful place."

Why change all those spots? Because spot is not a common word for people who have learned English as a foreign language. Also, it appears as a noun, a verb, and an adjective, and it has many meanings, as you might guess from the examples above. In Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the noun spot has 11 definitions, the verb spot has 7, and the adjective has 1, all with several different shades of meaning.

Do you have any similar spots in your writing–that is, words that may challenge international readers? Or if you read English as a foreign language, which words or expressions are difficult for you? 

Syntax Training


  1. Dear Lynn,

    As a Dutch guy I prefer you challenge me with words like “spot”, it will only improve my understanding of the English language.

    I love your blog by the way. I have actually made some of your blogs tasks in Outlook, since they captured recurring topics which I need in my daily work. This way I have them close at hand.

    Cheers! (Is this a proper goodbye?)


  2. It is actually not so easy to be a blogger! As on one hand you want to be creative, but on the other hand you need to be understood by everybody, so that’s why you should always try to find the balance & attract more and more readers to your blog.

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