How to talk your customers’ language

When most business owners or directors in the UK are asked what language they use in their company, they probably just answer ‘English’. However, when you’re creating professional communications, the answer isn’t always that simple.

 

Language is organic and evolves to meet the needs of the people using it, so there are many kinds of English in use across the UK and the rest of the world – and this can have an impact on how you choose to talk to your customers.

Take the BBC for example. With its global reach, it needs to make sure that the language it uses is easily accessible to different audiences worldwide, including those for whom English is a second language. This tends to mean that programming, in particular the news, sticks to the ‘Queen’s English’ – or what we might term standard UK English.

Some companies may choose instead to use the version of English that best reflects their branding, such as a business based in the US using its own local words and phrases to underline its American values, or a South African company using its own regional variations. A company in the UK may also choose to include words from its own local dialect to emphasise its community roots.

This consideration of language isn’t around whether or not we can understand the English used by others; globalisation and the media have helped spread alternative uses and new words across audiences. But for businesses the potential for annoying, confusing or alienating customers by using an English that differs from their own.

When you’re representing your company in writing – whether for customers or staff – it’s important to recognise that there are different forms of English. Decide which form is right for you and your business, whether that’s regional or standard UK English, US English, South African English or any other kind.

If you use the services of a professional writer, make sure they understand what this choice means and how to tailor your written communications so that your materials are consistent and really do ‘talk your customers’ language’.

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