We have just welcomed to our home an international exchange student from the Middle East. When I read the information she included on her program application, I added her birthday to our calendar: June 5. But here's the problem: Her birthday is May 6. How could I have gotten that wrong? Her birthday...
With some business audiences, it's easy to know exactly what to say and how to say it. We do it almost without thinking, following the usual rules. But with a global audience of non-native English speakers, the usual rules get tossed aside. We need to take a fresh look at communicating. So it...
I've been writing here about dates and times, but today I got a good laugh about places. A psychologist who lives in Redmond, Washington, shared a story of an Australian consultant who was trying to track him down. Only when she realized that Redmond, WA (mentioned on a website),...
I recently led a business communications class for a group of global executives in Seattle, Washington. Many of them spoke English as a second, third, or fourth language. When I asked them about their learning goals, several mentioned wanting to communicate more effectively with subordinates. Here is a way to...
In yesterday's Better Business Writing class, participants shared two examples of language to avoid: "blessed" and "bang for the buck." I think their cautions are worth passing on. In the first example, an employee has been sending email with "Have a blessed day," and her coworkers have been buzzing...
Susan wrote with this capitalization question:"I work for a man who does Chinese energy work called 'qigong.' When that word is used in writing (on our web site, for instance), people tend to capitalize it. My contention is that it should be treated like the word yoga and should...
The other day I received an email reply from a client. Here is the entire message: PHEW. I was sweating bullets over that one. . . . Story later. I understood exactly what she meant. Here is a translation into explicit business writing: I am relieved. I was very...
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...
If you write in English to an audience that speaks English as a foreign language (EFL, ESL), choose words that have few meanings. Or provide a context to help your readers understand the meaning. In a writing seminar last week, a woman named Montserrat, who is from Spain, shared...
I know what it is like to try to communicate in a foreign language. I remember a visit to Madrid's Bibilioteca Nacional (National Library), where I tried to do research for a book I was writing. Crushed by the limits of my skills in Spanish, I left the building...