If you are writing content for someone from a different culture or country, it is vital to use the correct tone, words and style, particularly with regard to business communications. It is generally prudent to use more formal and conservative language, rather than to risk offending the reader with a casual writing style.
Do some research about the culture and customs of your prospective client, before selecting a tone and style for the copywriting work you are required to do. It doesn't hurt to ask the client about their preferences regarding certain things.
Some online content writing points you should be clear about are:
- Addressing People: In the United States of America, people tend to establish business relationships on a first-name basis, very fast. In most other countries, it would be better to address business contacts by their last names, until the other person indicates that they would prefer using first-names.
- Professional titles: In some countries, professional and royal titles are not used in business communications. In other cultures, people are very sensitive about adding titles like ‘Prof.’, ‘Dr.’, ‘OBE’, ‘Sir’, ‘Ph.D’, ‘Maharaja’ or ‘Fr.’ to their names. If a client displays their preference for particular professional titles, then consider following it in your copy writing work.
- Personal Titles: In Spanish speaking countries, people are addressed as Sna. (senora), Sr. (senor), Dna. (dona) or Dn (don); instead of 'Mr.' or 'Ms.'. In Japan, honorifics like ‘San’ are appended to the end of one's first name, for example, John San. When it comes to women, in some countries (like the USA), women are addressed as ‘Ms’ rather than ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’. In other countries, married women may wish to be addressed as ‘Mrs’, to display their marital status. So, do careful research before selecting personal name titles.
- Use of personal pronouns: Some cultures (like the Americans) prefer direct and clear business communication, and often use personal pronouns such as I, we and you. People from other cultures might find this offensive, and prefer using the word ‘one’ in place of you, and the passive voice. For example, instead of saying ‘He did not pick up the phone’, they would say ‘The phone was not answered’.
- Avoid slang terms: Be careful about using idioms, jargon and slang words that may be popular in your own culture/country. These terms may make no sense to someone from another culture, and in some cases, may even be misunderstood or cause offence. For example, phrases like ‘bottom line’, 'the whole nine yards’ or ‘in a jiffy’.
- Avoid making generalisations: Do not generalise about all Asian or all South American cultures, just because they have certain common traditions. The business traditions amongst the Japanese, Koreans and Thais may vary as much as the customs used in English-speaking cities like Los Angeles, London and Melbourne.
Before writing content for people of other cultures, consider asking them for a few samples of content with styles they like, so that you can get an idea about their cultural preferences. You can later incorporate this style in the content you are creating. While some cultures may require an indirect flowery style of copy writing, others may need a more direct style. Do your homework, before you begin typing.
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