Bad English on corporate websites. Why does it keep happening?

Around the world, corporations are going online with websites targeting a global audience. These are often beautifully designed but poorly written. Part of the problem is the choice of content: corporate policy statements and executive biographies do not engage the reader. But a central issue at many Asian and European companies is management’s distrust of English written at a native-speaker level.

To produce English content, management uses its English speaking employees, or farms the source text out to a local translator. The less literal the translation, the less management is likely to trust it. This is because a good translation will not match the original, word for word. A similar problem arises if a writer is hired to create original English copy. Management cannot judge the quality of English and will try to second guess the writer. Whether using a translator or a writer, management will end up rewriting some or all of the English.

The solution is for management to learn to trust the writer. For this to happen, the writer must study how the company thinks and demonstrate this knowledge to management.

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