Tags: language

Avoiding the Inadvertent Email Insult

Avoiding the Inadvertent Email Insult

Beyond • November 3, 2010

Last week we touched upon ways to keep your email marketing text neutral & non-offensive by avoiding key words that can be interpreted to be racist or sexist. Indeed, they were so racist and sexist that we couldn\'t even publish them! However, there are many other ways whereby you may be insulting your readers without using any specifically offensive words. Here are some of the major points. He / She / He/She??? The English language was crafted during a time when it was assumed by both writers and readers that any generic or unspecified gender would automatically default to male. As recently as the 1970s, it was acceptable for discussions of everything from deities to children to be a \"him.\" As our society has developed a more enlightened consideration for gender, the language has unfortunately not kept up with the times. Thus it is difficult to specify generic gender, as in the case of: \"When administering the medicine to your child, hold (his / her / his/her) hand.\" His/her is cumbersome, and the use of either gender can be deemed discriminatory. The only remotely suitable workaround is to phrase the content in the plural: \"When administering the medicine to your children, hold their hands.\" It\'s ugly and awkward, but there are no currently available suitable alternatives. Keep Language Positive Negative language must be avoided in all of your email marketing content. You especially have to be extremely careful about wording reminders so that they do not sound accusatory. Reminding a customer that they did not renew their subscription should never use terms such as \"you neglected to\" or \"you failed to,\" as well as any reference to \"your lack of response.\" It is much more acceptable to phrase these reminders in the form of a question, such as \"did you receive our reminder notice that your subscription is about to lapse?\" Leave the Pontification to the Pontiff It is easy to cross the line into pontification when instructing or educating your audience. Using terms such as \"you must,\" \"you have to,\" or \"do this\" implies that you are commanding rather than informing. That is an approach that is diametrically opposed to the preferable tactic. An email marketing campaign is no place for preaching, moralizing, lecturing or catechizing. Consider your readers as your peers and share information that you believe will be of interest without talking down to them. Shun overly technical or detailed data, but summarize your content in a simple, easy-to-grasp manner that portrays the respect you must have for your audience. Watch the Humor Email campaigns that are lightened by a fun sense of comedy can significantly outperform the dull and straight-laced, but it is very easy for satire to be taken the wrong way by some readers. Self-deprecating humor is also a double-edged sword: Some customers will interpret the attempt at self-zinging humor as a confession of your brand\'s incompetence. Under no circumstance should any national group or profession be singled out in your humor: Any of the old chestnuts about \"a lawyer, a doctor, and a priest are shipwrecked on a desert island\" or \"a Russian, a German, and an Italian walk into a bar\" should be left for Improv Night. Even an extremely minor aspect, such as the position of a hyphen, can change the meaning of a sentence to one that can be seen as offensive. A \"small-business owner\" is the proprietor of a small business, but a \"small business-owner\" is a proprietor who is shorter than average. Today more than ever it is imperative to go through each and every one of your email marketing messages with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that no aspect of the content could possibly offend or insult any one of its readers.


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Composing Emails In The Type Of English Your International Customers Speak

Composing Emails In The Type Of English Your International Customers Speak

Beyond • June 29, 2010

If you were a member of a bilingual society and called upon to do a presentation in front of an audience whose native tongue was 15% English but 85% German, what would be the logical language to present in? It would seem clear that the presentation should be done in German. Since that is the case, why does your brand insist in writing its emails in the American English form which is emphatically not the language of 85% of the web’s English speakers? Out of the two billion people who live in nations where English is an official primary language, barely 300 million live in the United States. If your brand markets internationally (and most do) you are not only writing for an audience which resides between Maine and California, but for a prospect who may live in Canada, Australia, Britain, India, South Africa, The Philippines or more than fifty other nations. Although the population of these countries speak English, it is not the American English you have been brought up with. They speak the British English established in their colonial past, and it is a significantly different language than that spoken in modern day New York or Los Angeles. Here are just a few examples: Anorak - Parka Flyover - Overpass Articulated Lorry - An 18 wheeler truck Football - Soccer Aubergine - Eggplant Gammon - Ham Bangers - Sausages Hooter - Nose Biro - Ball point pen Lay-by - Roadside rest area Bonnet - Car hood Lift - Elevator Boot - Car trunk Loo - Toilet Caravan - Trailer or Motor Home Mac - Raincoat Chemist - Drug store Nought - The number zero Chuffed - Happy Petrol - Gasoline Courgettes - Zucchini Pram - Baby buggy Crisps - Potato chips Serviette - Table napkin Custom - Patronage Stone – A person’s weight in 14 pound increments Dual Carriageway - Divided highway Swede – Turnip Estate Car - Station wagon Tyre - Tire Fag - Cigarette Wellies - Rubber boots Faggot - A sausage-like meat Wing – Car fender Flat - Apartment Zed - The letter \"Z\" Identical terms can also have different meanings. If an American invites you over for tea, it’s for a hot beverage. However, a British speaker will serve you a full evening meal. An American pudding is a spoonable flavored cream, but a British pudding is everything from cake to pastries to ice cream. There are variants everywhere: Canadians, for example, tend to speak a more Americanized English, but steadfastly insist on inserting those British u’s inbetween the o’s and r’s, as in \"honour the colour of your neighbour.\" Indians tend to use colonialisms such as “do the needful” which have passed away in most modern English speaking countries. Australians have specific terms such as “fair dinkum” which are found nowhere else. The variants even extend to the way sums are written: USA: $1,234,567,890.12 Continental Europe: 1.234.567.890,12$ India: $1,23,45,67,891.12 In most British speaking countries a billion is what Americans call a trillion. Thus if your email refers to Carlos Slim as the world’s richest man with $53.5 billion, a non-American audience might interpret that as an amount greater than the GDP of North America and Europe combined! As there is no universal English, email marketers are well advised to craft their targeted messages in the specific type of English which is practiced by their audience. Your list’s statistical data has to include your customers’ nationalities, thus there is no more excuse than to supply a recipe for a treacle glazed, rasher wrapped hand of pork with capsicum, silver beet and sultana forcemeat to an American audience as there is to provide the same molasses glazed, bacon wrapped pork shoulder with red pepper, swiss chard and raisin stuffing recipe to your prospects in New Zealand, Ireland, Kenya, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Singapore, Jamaica…


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