Removing the Indian accent when writing for Australian readers

oz india flagsOver the past few years I’ve worked with people from India on some IT projects within the finance industry in Sydney. Some have been in Australia on special work visas, others have migrated here.

For the most part, the people from India I have worked with are clever and have a good work ethic. In the IT space they bring valuable skills and experience. Some are plain brilliant. Businesses benefit from a diverse workforce and the synergy of different ways of thinking.

But sometimes communication is difficult – and it’s just because we grew up in different parts of the world. Our cultures are different, the way we use words is different and the way we sound out words is different. In face to face conversations and meetings people often have to repeat themselves multiple times to get a shared understanding. Speaking a little slower than normal helps, but doesn’t solve the problem entirely.

Moving to the written word should make things easier, but sometimes it doesn’t. It is not poor grammar or incorrect sentence construction.  Many Indian professionals have studied English for years at school and university.  But the Indian idiom and way of speaking often doesn’t gel with Australian readers.

Here’s three problems I’ve noticed. And to be fair, these are not exclusively Indian problems.

  1. Writing in an ‘official’ or bureaucratic way; using big or obscure words when simple words will do. Adopting this style can stop you from getting your ideas across and can sometimes result in readers laughing at you. It’s best to just say what you mean clearly and simply.

Sure Greg, I am updating the text for all the funds on UAT right now. Will intimate you once the activity is completed. – the writer didn’t really want to become intimate with me, they were just going to tell me when the job was done.

Please revert back at the earliest opportunity. – the writer didn’t want me to quickly return to my former state, they were asking for a reply.

  1. Using more words than needed. More words makes your document longer, but it doesn’t make your argument or your content stronger or more convincing. Australians prefer to be convinced by the quality and clarity of a proposal or idea, rather than the weight of words expressing it. Even when writing simple text, use as few words as you can to get the idea across.

Chris can be reached in case of any queries pertaining to consolidated monthly invoice figures. – it would be better, and shorter, to write Ask Chris if you have any questions about invoices.

  1. Excessive ‘cut & paste’. Sometimes content is taken from one document and pasted into another without serious thought about whether it is entirely appropriate. It’s fast but not always good. This is a more troublesome problem because it reveals a lack of robust consideration about the topic. Good writing can only come from good thinking.