Ideally, software and its documentation is localized into the languages of the target markets. However, in many cases, localization is not cost-effective. Therefore, software and documentation is created in English. This article shows some problems that can occur if you do not write specially for an international audience.
Even if the target markets are countries in which English is spoken, problems can occur. For example, differences exist between the way English is used in the US, the UK, and Australia. Usually, most readers have no problem whether they see 'dialog box' or 'dialogue box' (assuming that they know what a dialog box is). However, is '12/1/2019' the 12th January 2019 or 1st December 2019?
Many verbs in English have two words or three words. Usually, the meaning of a multi-word verb is different from the meanings of its component words. Usually, people who read English as a second language struggle to understand multi-word verbs. Therefore, use an equivalent one-word verb. The table shows some examples:
|Do not use||Use|
|bring up (a menu)||obtain|
|end up with (a result)||results in|
|fill out (a form)||complete|
|put off (a decision)||delay|
|turn up (the volume)||increase|
Finally, and not very seriously, if users break their keyboards after you tell them to 'hit' the Enter key when you mean 'press', who is to blame?
Guidelines for Writing English Language Technical Documentation for an International Audience, INTECOM (www.tekom.de/upload/alg/INTECOM_Guidelines.pdf)