I only write in English. I know a little French (enough to understand what’s said to me at this point) but I can’t think in it so I don’t write in it. But that doesn’t mean people who only know English read my books. In fact, a lot of people who are ESL or even barely-English (like about as good as I am in French) read the books to try and learn from them.
That puts a lot of pressure on me to write clearly. The things I’ve learned in my last few years of travel and support work is that I don’t have to know the language to communicate effectively.
- Say what you mean clearly. Don’t use weasel words. Don’t wander off on tangents. Get to the point, say it, get out.
- Use the simplest word possible without losing the context. It’s not that big words are hard to understand, it’s that they’re learned later in most language classes.
- Analogies are complicated. Try not to use them unless they’re universal. Most aren’t.
- No colloquialisms. The only possibly acceptable ones are like
doing_it_wrong()which is not English but WordPress. It’s okay to use a term common to your product. That does mean you need to explain why ‘Super Admin’ is a thing.
- Screenshots are good. When you use them, though, don’t forget to describe them for the blind. Oh yes, writing for non-native speakers includes their visually impaired as well.
Of course that’s if you’re writing technical works. If you’re writing fiction a lot of that gets thrown out the door. Fiction has to reflect the world you’re writing, so it should have all those things that make tech writing a little weird. Except for the first one. Always write clearly.
I had a teacher who said that you can wander off on tangents when your Melville, but otherwise have your story be the story and the world and contain the drama but stay on task. Of course, she also let you in on a secret. When you write stories, write them out front to end. Then go back in on the tangents to both pad it out and give the story more flavor and depth. Delve into the random thoughts after you have the plot written.
But that’s another story.