The “Write” Stuff for Freelancing Success

So you want to be your own boss and enter the world of freelance writing, but you’re not sure where to begin? With some perseverance and the “write” tools, the road to freelancing success can be a little easier.

Read on to learn more about the must-haves for every writer……


Writer’s Market

It’s a directory of publishers you can sell your work to and is loaded with useful advice like how to write an effective query letter, working with editors and how much to charge for your work. Whether you’re working on a screenplay, magazine article or the next New York Times best seller, Writer’s Market is an invaluable resource for writers of all genres. Available in both print and digital formats, it’s money well spent.



Other Writers

You need them and they need you.  Get connected with other writers.  Whether it’s a virtual group or a community-based group, having a circle of writers to network with, share strategies and critique your work is really important to your growth. Don’t know where to find other writers?  Check out Meetup to find like-minded folks in your area or LinkedIn for virtual groups.

Author’s Website

Now’s not the time to be modest. You need a platform to promote your awesome work and help readers and clients find you.  Building a website is cheap, easy and no PhD in IT is needed.  WordPress is a popular tool many writers use to create their websites. Its user-friendly interface is easy to navigate and it’s optimized for getting your site in front of major search engines like Google and Yahoo.  Go ahead, toot your horn.

Your local library

Have you visited yours lately?  They’re no longer the austere places that you may have frequented as a kid. Today’s libraries are customer-centric and modern.  With vast amounts of digital resources, work rooms and knowledgeable staff, your neighborhood library is a vital resource for any writer.  Go on, introduce yourself to the librarian and make a new friend.  You’ll be glad you did.



Writing Conferences

They’re a one-stop shop for writers. Where else can you learn about industry trends, pitch your work to agents, mingle with other writers and walk away feeling inspired?  You can find conferences in most major cities and on college campuses too. 

The road to a successful freelance writing career isn’t always an easy one, but with the help of these tools and ambition, you’re on your way.  Good luck!

A Blog about…Blogging

Does this qualify as an oxymoron?




Bloggers…many companies hire them in one form or another.  But why?  What do bloggers bring to the table? Bloggers are hired to:

  • Get another opinion the company; it is kind of like when you wear the same perfume every day and you can’t smell it anymore, but your cube mates can because you are over-doing it, and one of them kindly tells you!  A fresh set of eyes is always beneficial!
  • Improve your traffic, leads, and sales; money, money, money – it’s all about the money!  After all, they have to pay the professional blogger somehow!
  • Save Money; Time is money, and online blogs and posts can go viral and put your company on the map!
  • Sound like an expert; professional bloggers are experienced, know the ins and outs, and make companies look good!
  • Access better promotional channels and resources; social media, third party websites, the possibilities are endless…
  • Measure effectiveness; Deep inside the blog there is a wealth of information on clicks, where they are coming from, how often they are coming, etc.  All of this information can be measured and help you improve your company!
  • Avoid trouble; professional bloggers know how to site properly, and keep your blogs fresh, clean, and most importantly original!
  • Overcome challenges; professional bloggers are creative, and can help drive excitement in your consumers, find you new consumers, and put your business on the map!

Interested in learning more?  Click here

So now that you know the benefits of being a blogger, it sounds like a good gig, right?  Maybe you are thinking about quitting your job, working from home, creating your own hours, delving into your creative side…but where do you start?

When jumping into the blogging world, it seems the most important task would be to determine the best kind of blog for you.  Blogging for Dummies breaks down the 6 most common types of blogging: (click each type for an example)

  • Essay: Daily blogs about life; commonly found with individuals who have personal blogs.
  • Review: Product/service reviews
  • Expert: Blogs that have one main focus, written by more than one professional with a focus on the blog subject.  Most common for professionals such as public relations agencies, consultants, attorneys, etc.
  • Opinion/editorial: Geared towards politics
  • Shopping: Links to merchants with product pricing, and occasionally reviews
  • News/events: Blogs about news updates – from CNN to TMZ.

Along with determining the type of blog you will write, there are some other key items to establish for success:

  • Determine your angle
  • Establish your voice
  • Grab attention
  • Use social media
  • Keep it new


Read more here

As a blogger, it is important to appeal to your audience, while at the same time keeping your own voice as a writer.  With the endless amounts of blogs floating around the internet, it is important to grab the attention of your audience, and keep your material fresh and original.

The million dollar question: how do you get paid?  There are a few ways in which you can get paid with advertisements.  For example, some blogs put advertisements that relate to your topic surround the post.  As the advertisements get clicks, you get paid.  Other blogs will pay you to post reviews of consumer goods.  And lastly, there are blogs that will purchase your work for their own use.  For a list of popular blogs with these options and more, click here and here!  There are many options out there, so be creative!

Writing for an International Audience

by Scott Rhoades

Whether you write for the Web or print, chances are your words will be read by people around the globe. This post provides suggestions to help meet the needs of a worldwide audience and maintain your organization’s international image.



Two terms are important to know:

  • Localization: Convert a document written for one culture into one for another culture. This usually starts with translation, but it doesn’t stop there.

  • Internationalization: Write so people will understand more easily if American English is not their first language.



Language and Syntax

Using clear language is more critical than usual when your audience might not have native American English skills.


  • Use only one term when referring to one thing.
    Synonyms can confuse readers whose vocabularies are limited. They can also confuse translators.

  • Use short, simple sentences.
    Complex sentence can tax language abilities.

  • Avoid words with multiple meanings.
    For example, don’t use since, as,or while when you mean because. Those words have definitions related to time that could obscure the meaning of a sentence. May can also cause problems. It can mean there’s a possibility or that you’re giving permission.

  • Be aware that some words mean something else in other languages.
    You can’t know all of the words that might have embarrassing meanings in other languages, but avoid those you know.



Cultural Bias

Be careful about unintentional discriminatory language and cultural references. Use multicultural names for people in examples, without being stereotypical. Say international customers, not foreign customers.



Avoid idioms and metaphors. They aren’t easily understood in other countries. Suggesting that somebody step up to the plate might not be understood where baseball is not played.


References to holidays are culture-specific, and often include religious overtones that show bias. Only refer to holidays when necessary. Remember that some audience members might know as much about Christmas as you do about Diwali. Avoid holiday idioms: She was excited as a child on Christmas morning.


How dates are written can create confusion. You wouldn’t want somebody to show up at 7 in the morning on December 7 expecting an event that took place on a warm July evening. 7/12/2016 means July 12, 2016 in the U.S., but in much of the world it means 7 December, 2016. Mention the month by name rather than a number.

Many cultures refer to time using a 24-hour clock rather than our typical twelve-hour clock. Writing 19:00 might confuse your U.S. audience, but if you write 7:00 pm, you’ll probably be understood by everyone. Use the 24-hour clock if your audience is used to it, such as the military or scientific communities.


If you localize, create images without words wherever possible. Words often expand in length when translated, which can mess up your carefully composed diagram. Add text in callouts or layers where word expansion won’t matter. To save cost, give your localization team a file they can edit so they don’t have to create a new graphic.


Writers might bristle against word choice restrictions enforced by editors and style guides, but clarity sometimes means trading creativity for careful use of language.

3 Ways You Can Write Like Cicero (And JFK, and Ben Franklin, and Yoda)

We can learn a thing or two from the ancient Romans. How to build the perfect stone arch, for example, or how to throw an incredible dinner party. 

Writers looking to persuade an audience should take a page from the book of one Marcus Tullius Cicero, an ancient politician famous for his speeches and mastery of rhetoric. And with election season upon us, you will almost certainly hear the same strategies echoed today.

Here are 3 Ciceronian techniques that can help add oomph to clear, concise language:

1. Anadiplosis: Yes, it sounds a little like a disease. But this trick can help you more effectively link successive ideas to make a point. Anadiplosis is the repetition of the last word of the previous clause, and looks like this:

“Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to anger. Anger leads to suffering.”
-Yoda, the wise mentor in Star Wars

It also looks like this entire DirecTV commercial. this entire DirecTV commercial

2. Chiasmus: This term means “X” and describes an A-B-B-A pattern. It helps you emphasize a contrast, like this:

“It’s not the men in my life that count: It’s the life in my men.”
-Mae West

Or, in more presidential terms:

“Ask not what your country can do for you— ask what you can do for your country.”
-President John F. Kennedy

(It’s also common in the Bible.)

3. Tricolon: Ancient speakers knew there was something almost magical about the number 3, and tricolon is simply a set of 3 parallel words or phrases. (How weird does this sound: “Location, Location.” You just need that third one!)

Tricolon is one of President Obama’s favorites—consider this snippet from his 2008 victory speech:

“If there is anyone out there [1] who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; [2] who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; [3] who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”
-President Obama

When the third item serves as a climax or exclamation point, it’s called tricolon crescens (crescens means “increasing”):

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
-Benjamin Franklin

So on that note, honorary bonus point to the first one who spots one of these in a Donald Trump speech.

Great Writing Starts With Grammar

My name is Jenn and I love eating my family and cats.

Wait, no, that’s not right. My name is Jenn, and I love eating, my family, and cats. That first sentence shows how grammar can be the difference between being a foodie and being a cannibal. For the professional writer, it’s very important to be mindful of grammar. A missing comma can not only give the wrong impression, it can cost you a job. Kyle Wiens owns two technical writing companies, iFixit and Dozuki. He won’t hire anyone who uses poor grammar. Even if you get the job, poor grammar is bad for business. According to a 2013 survey, “59 percent of Britons would not use a company that had obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing material.”



So how can an aspiring professional writer get a grip on grammar? Luckily for us, there’s no lack of resources, both online and in print. Grammarly will analyze your text the way your spellchecker can’t. Remember, your spellchecker sees no difference between “They’re picking up their order over there” and “Their picking up there order over they’re.” If Grammar Girl isn’t on your Favorites list, stop reading this and add her now. If you want to get down to the real nitty-gritty, there are dozens of style guides to be found online.

If paper is more your thing, there are plenty of books for your grammar gratification. You can’t go wrong with Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.” Fun fact: E.B. White also wrote “Charlotte’s Web.” He gave us good grammar and “some pig.” What’s not to love? But if you’re looking for something less porcine, you can always turn to Lynn Truss’ classic “Eats, Shoots & Leaves.” Better yet, ask your local librarian for some grammar books, and you’ve found a friend for life.


Now that you’ve found your reference, be sure to refer to it. That’s what it’s for, after all. If you’re unsure, look it up. Even if you’re mostly sure, look it up. The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin – Madison has a helpful guide about common grammar mistakes.

Using proper grammar is an absolute must for the professional writer and no one can know it all. For example, off the top of your head, do you know when to use less and when to use fewer? “There were less than seven” sure sounds okay, but it should be “There were fewer than seven.” If it can be counted, use fewer. Checking your work for dangling modifiers and comma splices may make you feel like you’re back in Freshman English; however, grammar will give your writing clarity and polish.

That’s it from me. Check back next week for a new post about professional writing!

Where Do Professional Writers Work?

Professional writing is a vast, ever-expanding field, and certain aspects of it remain constant in any field of work. A professional writer must always have:

  • good communication skills
  • good technical skills
  • good organizational skills

And most importantly:

  • good writing skills (duh)

All professional writers need these skills, but not all professional writing jobs and careers are exactly the same. There are numerous job opportunities and career goals for professional writers, in various fields of work and almost anywhere in the world.

But where to start?

It’s understandable to be a little overwhelmed, but luckily Chatham University’s Masters of Professional Writing online program is incredibly flexible, allowing you to choose a concentration, or do a little of everything and see what appeals to you. Here’s a brief glimpse at the different types of professional writing you’ll hear about during this program and the various careers they offer, which will help you narrow down (or maybe broaden!) your course of study and future academic plans:

Technical Writing

Technical writing takes complex, intricate material and makes it presentable and accessible to different audiences. There’s an ever-expanding field for writers who can cut through all the technical verbiage and make the information easy-to-follow and resonate with a non-technical audience. Types of technical writing include:

  • Letter Reports
  • Technical Reports
  • Copy Editing
  • How-to Guides and Technical Manuals

Web Content

This aspect of professional writing centers on developing web content, such as designing websites and writing content for websites. It uses skills in web design and media software, and uses authoring tools and various multimedia techniques to convey information in a practical, available manner. Types of web content writing include:

  • Designing websites
  • Managing websites
  • Designing/managing social media pages
  • Designing/managing wikis and blogs

Nonprofit Professional Writing

Writing for a nonprofit organization is an extensive communications profession that requires creating persuasive content in a variety of settings. Your writing has to convince the reader to give you their money. Types of nonprofit writing include:

  • Public Relations Coordinating
  • Grant Writing
  • Fund Raising
  • Development Coordinating

Communication Professional Writing

Communications writing involves fusing critical thinking, creative expression and data strategy. It involves clear, concise writing and often is targeted at a particular audience or focus group. Types of communication writing include:

  • Public relations
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Corporate Writing

This quick look into the various types of professional writing will give you a better understanding of the Masters of Professional Writing programs’ numerous courses of study. As mentioned, the field of professional writing is always growing and expanding, and therefore the career options and job opportunities will continue to expand and grow as well. These different concentrations of professional writing demonstrate just how many different jobs and careers this program opens you up to, and each of these concentrations has a curriculum in this program. If you would like more information on these curriculums, go to Chatham’s Masters of Professional Writing website:

Good luck, future professional writers!


The Power of Digital Portfolios






Résumés are boring.  Necessary, but boring.  I always feel like I sound robotic when I’m writing my accomplishments and skills, and as much as I try to use expressive adjectives, I feel like a résumé cannot capture my personality or really show potential employers how my skills and experience set me apart from everyone else.

When we learned about digital portfolios in class, I decided that I needed to create one in order to provide a fuller and more accurate account of who I am as an employee and as a person.  They are the perfect complement to a well-written résumé.

Select a Platform

I researched many portfolio platforms specifically geared towards writers.  I was looking for a website that was easy to use and had the most features for the “free account” option. I definitely think the extra features, such as a distinct domain name are worth the extra monthly or yearly fee, but since I’m basically starting from scratch in terms of an online presence—no Facebook, Twitter, blog, outdated LinkedIn profile, and no online samples of work—I can upgrade later after I build up my portfolio.  I settled on because it offers the ability to upload multiple types of media, such as videos, photos and PDFs, and I can customize the look of my portfolio.

Design the Layout

After a quick registration process, I was able to choose my layout, upload a cover photo, customize my background, and write a quick introduction.  I didn’t have any of my own images available, so I used pictures of a sunset and a starry night from a stock photo website ( to prevent copyright infringement.

 Add Content

Journo Portfolio also allows you to add links to your multimedia and personal websites, and a copy of your résumé can be prominently displayed above your logo.

Projects and articles can be added directly to your home page.  You can blog directly onto your home page also, which is a great feature—no need to link to a blog on another website.  Additional pages can be created and edited.   I chose to add a “Projects” and “About Me” page.

Final Product

final blog2(

My portfolio is definitely not complete.  Most of the content and links are placeholders for future multimedia sites and projects, but building it gave me an idea of the possibilities of a digital portfolio. The visual impact that they create and the user’s ability to upload different types of media in many different designs has convinced me that portfolios are an essential tool for creating a strong and personal internet presence. No matter what platform you choose, a digital portfolio will set you apart and help you to deliver your unique message.



Tips and Tricks for Surviving Chatham’s MPW Program

You’ve decided to begin your adventure as a grad student attending an online program. Like me, the decision was the easiest part. Now I have to figure out how to transition to a student’s schedule while working full-time and having other grown-up responsibilities. Let’s dust off the cob webs from our brain and prepare ourselves with a tool bag of online resources to survive the journey.


Start thinking of yourself as a writer by reading. You may have only written Facebook post, sick notes, to-do list and work emails over the past few years, but don’t fret, you are not the only one. Before you begin class feeling like you snuck into a room of scholars by accident, immerse yourself in the blogosphere. Yes, it is your basic anticipatory socialization, but it will kickstart that part of your brain that has been on snooze. Check out blogs from successful writers to get thinking about modern professional writing.  Positive Writer has a list of the Top 25 Writing Blogs full of entertaining and stimulating post to get you excited about that homework! has a team of four professionals churning out daily tips on grammar, editing, business writing and even 40 Yiddish Words You Should Know. Ann Hadley has a Writing GPS to rethink your process (or create one for the first time) and The Procrastiwriter gives some motivation and encouragement for those trying to “be a successful writer around a full-time life.”

Update from a paper planner to an app. You might have been the student who has a different color ink pen busterfor each class and correlating highlighter colors to indicated task and urgency. That won’t cut it now. Check out a planning app that goes with you everywhere and can set unavoidable reminders. My Study Life is free and works with all platforms so you can copy and paste from your syllabus on your laptop, and task while in traffic. iStudiez Pro has been awarded as being the best app for college students, parents and even educators for it’s usability. Feel a little more savvy and need more than a calendar? Try Evernote to organize your draft and research materials. So busy you don’t have time to app it out? Try Dragon Dictation to speak to text your notes, drafts and reminders. Don’t underestimate the power of a whiteboard on display. Seeing your week’s task laid out may not only help you when the battery is dead, but may show everyone else in the house how much you have to get done (maybe you can get some sympathy chore assistance).

Now you’re ready to get to work. Don’t panic. It will all get done. Being smart about how you approach it will help. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. offers 12 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Grad School  and What I Wish I Knew In Grad School: Current and Former Students Share 16 Tips, written toward Psych students. She suggest a new approach to reading with purpose, and learning how to stop yourself when the piece no longer meets your goals. Letting go of perfectionism, focusing on perseverance and the imposter phenomenon are great for calming the anxiety and feeling normal about the challenge at hand.

Give it up when you have to. Running errimagesands that is. Time stealers like housework and everyday errands will leave you frustrated and exhausted and sitting down to start homework at 9 pm is not the way to approach this investment. Take that shinny new for a spin at Amazon Prime for Students! Free 6 month trial and only $50 after for a year membership. Receive free 2 day shipping on practically anything you would buy at Target. You might even save money without having the browsing  temptation. Free 2 day shipping and return shipping even on rental text books.  Click, add to cart, get it delivered, and done.

Take a break. You may not have a day or two free for relaxing with these 7 week intensive classes. Don’t reach for the wine, you’re not Hemingway, and you will need to get back to work soon. Instead check out a medication break app like Calm. With guided medication you can refresh yourself in 2 to 20 minute session and get back to being productive. This is not a new age hokey thing, download or go to their website and choose a soothing nature scene to stare at and let the trickling waters wash out your anxiety.


Take advantage of every tool available to make your life easier during the new period. Don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. This phase will go by so much faster than you think, enjoy being a student again. The hard work will be worth it. 

Learning to Live Out Your Dreams

Harlem by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore– 
And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over– 
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags 
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

A Dream Deferred…

Pursuing a master’s degree has always been a personal and professional goal for me. I had planned and fully expected to go straight into a master’s program after completing my undergrad degree, but that didn’t happen.

I applied to a program at the University of Pittsburgh where I had completed my undgrad degree, and to my surprise, was not admitted. This was a devastating blow to my 20 something ego because up until that time, I was quite accustomed to academic success. I had done well in undergrad and been admitted to two honor societies, so I was obviously devastated. I questioned my intellect, my purpose, even myself. The rejection forced me to enter the work force prematurely and put me on a path that made me feel like Alice when she fell down that hole. And it also forced me to put my dream of an advanced degree in a box and up on a high, high shelf.

I started working at a news radio station, then went into freelancing and then did a 180 and started working for a communication company—in customer service. I had truly lost my way. No longer did I yearn for academic stimulation, intellectual conversation or the pure joy that I had once received from just learning new things. I had settled for a paycheck without purpose. This went on for far too many years. I was like a dried up raisin, festering in the hot sun.

A New Dream Still…

In 2002, I was blessed with a beautiful baby girl. She was perfect in every way and I fully committed myself to providing her with a good life, and raising her to be happy and well-adjusted child. I made sure that she attended the best schools and that she participated in engaging activities. We traveled to places like Disney and Universal Park for her birthdays and she has even been to Hawaii to dance at Pearl Harbor. I was determined to give her reasons to dream big and to pursue her dreams with vigor and determination. So far, she has had a GREAT life (not perfect), and I have been blessed to be her mom. She is now a thriving 13 year old who is kicking butt and taking names. And yes, she has big dreams. She’s a dancer and no one can tell her that she won’t make it to Broadway. But wherever life leads her, she will be well prepared and ready to walk into her destiny. And the best part about this is that she has inspired me to dream again.

A Dream Realized…

About two months ago a feeling hit me that I had misplaced something important. It was a nagging feeling that would not allow me to rest. I was feeling quite unfulfilled with my professional work and I was no longer satisfied with just seeing my daughter’s accomplishments. There was something missing from my life. Then it hit me like a bolt of lightening. It was time for me to do something for me. But what, was the question that I asked myself over and over. After a few weeks of deep thought and prayer, I remembered that dream that had been hidden away in the box in the back of that closet. Graduate school, the dream that was not yet realized.

It was now late April and every program that I researched would be starting their summer sessions in less than two weeks. How could I possibly pull that off? After many late nights and distracted days at work, I discovered the Chatham program for a Master’s in Professional Writing. I applied using my iPhone. It would take less than a week to go from pushing send to receiving a congratulatory email stating that I had been admitted. I rented a book from Amazon and can now call myself a candidate for a master’s degree. (Go, Girl! seems appropriate here) I didn’t think about how this would fit into my family’s already crazy schedule or how I could make this work with a career that can be pretty demanding. I just did it. And I feel great about that. I finally did something just for me and I am now one step closer to realizing my dream.

Living the Dream…

My story is not as unique as I would like to believe. Deferring or putting off personal plans is a far too familiar scenario for myself and 8 million other adults over the age of 25 in this country. I am certain that the bulk of that number are working parents. We want to ensure that our children are receiving the proper support and encouragement from us that we fail to do much for our own personal development or growth.

So I share this with you to encourage you and to give you a look into how it looks to live out a dream. Here are some key steps that helped me:

Steps to Living Out Your DreamDreams Road Sign

1) Acknowledge Your Dream: By acknowledging that you have an aspiration allows it takes on life. From this point it can grow and mature, and not just be a nagging thought in the back of you mind.

2) Set a Date for Achieving Your Dream: This step will hold you accountable and give you benchmarks that you have to meet. It also forces you to act, which transforms your dream into a goal, with clear objectives.

3) Develop a Plan for Pursuing Your Goal: Now, if you read my story, you have probably figured out that I sort of skipped this step. But I am developing a plan now. I know what classes I will be taken and even have an anticipated graduation date. It would, however, had made things a bit less stressful if I had done this first. I would have had greater direction.

4) Take the First Step: I applied using that tiny screen on my iPhone. This was my first step. I could have waited until I was in my office and sat down and actually fully read what I signing up for. But that would have allowed fear and doubt to set in. You have to put one foot forward if you want to walk.

5) Enjoy the Journey That Come with Living Out Your Dreams: This is the best part. Once you start this train rolling, the ride is all down hill as they say. You may get a few bumpy patches, but with determination and hard work, you will reach the end of the line and realize your dream and have nothing but road behind you.

I am in no way saying that this is an easy process. In fact, graduate classes have challenged me. I am being stretched mentally, academically, financially and spiritually. I find it difficult at times to devote time to studying and it can be quite difficult balancing my role as mother and employee with my new identity as student and professional writer. What I am saying, however, it that it is worth the effort and is, for me, turning out to be a dream come true.

Writing for a Global Audience

With the rise of the Internet, the world is smaller than ever before. Whether you’re designing websites for a global marketplace or managing translation of user manuals, you need to make sure your content can reach a global audience.

Going Global

Copyright chainat / 123RF Stock Photo
Used with permission.


Don’t worry – you won’t have to dust off your high school French. Translation is a specialized skill best left to professional translation services.

As a writer, though, you will be deeply involved with the translators: developing statements of work, packaging materials to send to them, answering questions, and ultimately reviewing and managing multiple versions of the content.


Translation is just a piece of a broader process called localization. The W3C Consortium defines localization as:

The adaptation of a product, application or document content to meet the language, cultural and other requirements of a specific target market (a locale).

Besides just translating the words themselves, localization can include changing number formats, date and time formats, currency, symbols, graphics and more. You can still localize a document for different markets, even if you’re only presenting it in English.


The translation service usually handles the bulk of localization, but there are things you can do as a writer to make the localization process go more smoothly. This is called internationalization. Looking again at the W3C definition:

Internationalization is the design and development of a product, application or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language.

Localization happens at the end – after the document is locked down in English and ready to be adapted to other markets. Internationalization, on the other hand, is something you need to be aware of throughout the writing process.

Here are some tips to help internationalize your document:

  • Avoid Idioms and Metaphors – Because idioms are not taken literally, it can be difficult to translate them into other languages. Sports metaphors and cultural references are also problematic. “We’re batting a thousand” will be readily understood in America. In Russia? Not so much.
  • Write Out Dates – 01/05/15: Is that January 5th or May 1st? It depends on where you are. You can avoid ambiguity by always writing out month names.
  • Keep Text and Images Separate – An image that contains text can be a nightmare to localize. Charts and graphs are also something to watch out for. Have the original data handy so you can regenerate it in a different language when the translations are available.
  • Be Clear and Concise – If something is hard to understand in English, it’s probably going to be even harder to translate. Write simple sentences and avoid jargon, acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Be Careful with Graphics – A thumbs-up status icon may be innocent enough to American audiences, but in some parts of the world it’s horribly offensive. You may also need to swap out graphics to highlight different regional offices/teams or product variants.
  • Leave Space – Translated text will take up more or less space than its English counterpart. In some documents this is usually not a problem, but web pages and software applications are particularly vulnerable to layout issues when the text is suddenly too big to fit in the size allotted.
  • Know Your Regulatory Requirements – Translators deal with words, not law, and it is your responsibility to be aware of any applicable documentation regulations in your industry. For example, European regulations often require that you include a CE Mark symbol in your manuals. Region-specific warnings, notices and disclaimers may also be required.

Bottom Line

Now, more than ever, professional writers need to be aware of their global audiences. By taking the time to consider internationalization up front, writers can save their organizations (and themselves!) a great deal of time, money and effort in the localization process. You can be the one to help your company go global.

Further Reading

W3C Internationalization

Designing for International Users: Practical Tips

Think Globally, Write Locally

Text Size in Translation