Speak their language

If you were going to write something for an audience in Marseille, and you wanted them to respond enthusiastically, you’d have your work translated into French. That’s a no-brainer, right? If your audience were in Sao Paulo, you’d get it translated into Portuguese. If they were in Bangkok, you’d want it presented in Thai.

Those are all large cities, so a significant portion of your audience probably could navigate in English. But the easier you make it for your audience to understand you, the better chance that they will. It’s also likely that they would appreciate your effort to speak their language.

The same is true when you write to other English speakers. This is part of what we mean by knowing your audience.

If you are a tree-hugging hippy trying to get through to a group of business executives, think about the language your audience speaks. You could talk to them about the return on investment of saving a forest, and the key performance indicators of your program. (The ROI doesn’t have to be stated in dollars; it could be protecting their McMansions from mudslides, or providing recreation for their kids.)

On the other hand, if you are a cigar-chomping tycoon trying to get through to an earthy-woodsy crowd, you might write about the sustainability of your new subdivision. If you are writing for an audience of engineers, use the vocabulary of logic and efficient design.

There’s no guarantee that your readers will uncritically accept everything you write in their language. But it does show that you are willing to meet them on ground where they feel at home, which makes them less likely to put up extra mental defenses.

Writing in an unfamiliar language may feel uncomfortable at first. In fact, your writing probably will be awkward until you get a hang of a new style. You can’t fake it, though. If you are going to use their vocabulary, you need to use it correctly. Jargon isn’t magic. They won’t give you much respect if you aren’t in command of your words.

Or, rather, in command of their words.



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