Language on the Web: What International Websites Have to Consider
I have read a lot of articles and even attended conferences on how to write for the web. All of them are great, I have learned a lot and I would summarize their highlights in the following checklist:
- Don't disregard grammar
- Speak like a person
- Talk about information relevant to your user
- Speak as if you were involved in a conversation with your user
- Write in brief, to-the-point statements, preferably in the form of bullet lists
- Speak using words that are understood by your user
- Use clear call-to-action verbs
- Review your copy
We can talk for hours about each of those statements. Nevertheless, we always have one language in mind when we do so. Not only one language, but one dialect, too.
What do I mean by dialect?
When I say dialect, I mean a variant of a language spoken in a certain region or by a certain group of people. This means that if you're speaking English, you're not always speaking the right type of English. The most common example would be to compare British English with American English. The same words are not always used in the same context or with the same frequency.
I recently had to work on a project that involved developing an e-commerce website that could work for the whole Latin American branch of a big sales company. The first obvious problem was, of course, that not all countries in Latin America speak Spanish. We needed to consider Portuguese.
But aside from that obvious language difference, there was something else to consider: The different types of Spanish that people speak all over Latin America.
So why not use the same type of Spanish? Don't they understand it?
They do understand it. Nevertheless, there are some countries that will not trust a website that isn't using their type of Spanish. They'll consider it a Mexican company and will instead search for a regional one, not bothering to check if there are stores available in their country.Continued on the next page