Disclaimer : A few of the I am posting are from a blog post I wrote recently,so if this is considered as a attempt at self promotion, please let me know I'll remove my answer.
Here is a brief list of the things I would call out before while writing content for international audiences
- Research your audience and find out the local language in thier region : There are a number of countries which have multiple languages and what might be considered acceptable in one of the languages might not be the case there. So while creating content, be mindful of the language of the area you are targeting. To quote the W3C internationalization page :
The script may also change by legislation or with changes in
government policy. For example, to reach the Azeri-speaking population
in Iran, you would use Arabic script. From the late 1930s, Cyrillic
was the script of choice in Azerbaijan itself and became policy in
1940. Due to the fall of the Soviet Union, beginning in 1991 a gradual switch to Latin occurred, becoming mandatory for official uses in
2001. However, for your target audience and unofficial uses, you might want to use Cyrillic for older audiences and Latin for younger
audiences, and most likely both to reach the general Azerbaijani
population. If you want to reach all Azeri speakers, you would use all
3 scripts. (Note that there might be terminology and other differences
among Azeri speakers in different countries, just as there are
differences between English or French speakers in different
You also should be aware that your choice of script may have
political, religious, demographic or cultural overtones. In countries
where the language of higher learning was Russian, Cyrillic will be
used by educated people. Latin is associated with Pan-Turkic
movements, and more generally can indicate Western-tending movements.
Arabic script has associations with Islamist movements.
- Get a professional translator : The web is replete with stories of poorly translated tag lines or messages which were a failure in the target countries due to incorrect translations or automated translation. To quote an example from my blog post :
Pepsi’s ‘Come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ slogan reportedly
turned into ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ when
translated into Chinese.
Germany was not entirely receptive of Irish Mist whiskey liqueur,
Clairol’s mist stick curling iron or the Rolls Royce Silver Mist
model. This isn’t surprising when you consider that ‘mist’ is German
Be Mindful of small details: While writing text for international audiences or audiences from a specific country, ensure that you are mindful of small details which might influence the way your users perceive your app. Some details are :
- Dates: Be mindful of date formats used (DD/MM/YYYY vs. MM/DD/YYYY)
- Time: 12-hour vs. 24-hour time.
- Currency: Pay attention to conversions and formats.
- Phone Numbers: Formats are different around the world.
- National Holidays: Holidays are country and region specific.
- Metric Units : Be mindful of the metric units being used in that country
- Website Language Codes: ISO codes are important to know.
Understand how users access your site (the platforms they use) : You need to do some research about the kind of platforms your users might use to access your site. Though your site might be a web app, chances are a lot of users might access it through a mobile browser. A good example is that of that of how facebook customizes its tag line and leading text depending upon its audience :
The English page says, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the
people in your life.” The Japanese page says, “Using Facebook, you can
connect with friends, colleagues and classmates to deepen your
connections. Also access Facebook from cell phones and smartphones.”
The thing to notice is that the Japanese page mentions users can
access the site with phones, but the English page doesn’t. This is
perhaps because this study 95% of the Japanese population is mobile
I also recommend looking at this article for additional inputs. To quote the article :
- Ensure you follow the spelling of the area you are targeting: For example,if your user base is mostly american, they you need to
ensure your spelling follows american english guidelines but if your
user base uses mostly British english, then change the spellings
- Avoid idioms or metaphors unless you are sure your users will understand them
- Avoid specific cultural references
- Keep sentences short and light Jargon, multiple sub clauses, obtuse syntax – it’s just going to give everyone a headache