Adding a tool to the global English toolbox
For a number of years, I have been trying to find ways to write for a global English audience. My target has been people who are new English speakers/readers and people who have little or no previous exposure to the Bible. As I have stumbled along in the writing and rewriting process, I have come across several tools that have been helpful to me. (I have written about those in other places.) But this past year, a friend placed a book in front of me that, as it turns out, has become as helpful to my writing as anything else I have in my toolbox. It is John R. Kohl’s book, The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market.
For those who don’t know John Kohl, he has been a technical writer and editor for the SAS Institute for several decades. John holds a B.A. in German and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language. So it is not surprising that he understands the needs of technical writers – which is evident in his book. What was surprising to me is how well he understands the world of the non-native English speaker. Not only that, but he has extensive expertise in how writing style is interpreted by translation software. As a charter member of the Association of Machine Translation in the Americas, Kohl has been a key player in the research on the interplay between writing style and translation accuracy, both in human and machine translation.
With those credentials, I think that I expected Kohl’s book to be quite academic and filled with technical insider-speak. In fact, the opposite is true. He doesn’t just offer his readers 300 pages of guidelines to help make their writing clear and accessible to the non-native English reader, he applies the guidelines as he writes. He writes in the global English he is promoting. The result is a book that is simple to read and filled with helpful examples and illustrations of each principle he gives. And Kohl not only gives the “how-to” instructions, but works through the why’s for simplifying your writing style.
I am enjoying this book. It is a useful tool that I find myself reaching for again and again.
So, if you’re like me and you want to learn how to write to be understood by non-native English readers, or you just want to be a better writer, consider getting a copy of Kohl’s, The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market. For people who have the task of communicating on God’s behalf, it is important that we be clear. The guidelines in this book will help us to achieve that clarity which, for some of our readers, could make an eternal difference.