More than most industries, blogging and new media are truly global fields. We tend to think in a really patriotic, insular way, especially in the United States (where I live), but not everyone who reads your blog or follows you on social media will be from your country or even speak the same native language as you do. That presents some specific challenges, and in my opinion, bloggers who completely ignore these hurdles are doing a disservice to their readers – and even potentially driving away would-be fans.
Here are some of the biggest challenges I’ve found about working in an industry that is so global – as well as the way I’m solving these problems (or at least attempting to solve them!):
Challenge #1: Vocabulary
When I first started blogging, I had a terrible time communicating effectively with readers because my vocabulary was too localized. Now, I think most bloggers know some of the commonly confused works, especially between British English and American English, but phrases that sound natural to me are completely foreign to many of my readers, even some who live in the United States but didn’t grow up in Pennsylvania. It’s hard – but you have to train yourself to write a bit more globally without losing what makes you you. If you use regional words or phrases, at least take the time to define them (or link to a definition) so you aren’t leaving out readers who didn’t grow up in the same environment as you did.
Challenge #2: Grammar
Just like there are obvious differences in vocabulary from one country to another, there are also grammatical differences. Again, you don’t want to lose the essence of you, but if your grammatical choices are too cringe-worthy to readers, they might not come back. This is an area where I personally still need tons of work, though I do think I’ve come a long way. It’s ironic, since I was an English major in college, but because I grew up in a very rural Pennsylvania Dutch area, some grammar choices that make others gasp simply don’t sound wrong to me. It helps to work with an editor who will point out the mistakes you make most often so you can start retraining yourself to write (and speak) in a more globally pleasing way without compromising your style.
Challenge #3: Taboo Topics
This is a big one. You can overlook weird terminology or silly grammar choices if you like a person’s message or writing style, but if someone offends you, you might not return to read their blog again. There’s definitely something to be said for just being you – you’ll find “your people.” At the same time, I’ve occasionally be told be someone that something I wrote was culturally offensive, and that was not my attention at all, so I promptly changed what I wrote. In general, I’ve found the the best we can all do is be aware that cultural differences exist. Few people actually mean to offend, so typically it just takes communication to clear the problem.
Challenge #4: Formalities
Chances are that you won’t just be writing a blog post that reaches global readers, but you’ll also be communicating directly with people from other countries through comments, emails, and social networking sites. It’s hard to know the formalities another person expects, since it might be very different from what you expect yourself. I personally always find it challenging to address an email if it’s to someone I don’t know (or don’t know well). Do I go with the more casual first name and risk taking to many liberties? Do I use Mr./Ms. and risk sounding too impersonal? There’s no right answer, even when emailing someone from your own country, let along someone from another country. Formalities are also hard to handle outside of the email – for example, I was watching a TV show today where it was mentioned that British people don’t like compliments – and too many can seem rude. (I don’t know if that’s true, since I’m not British – maybe some of you international readers can weigh in?) Again, I think it just boils down to realizing that there are differences as you travel across borders and few people actually mean to offend.
Okay, these are the four biggest challenges I’ve found as someone who works in a global industry. Well…there is one more, but few of you probably deal with it. Since I sometimes go by “Alli” and I have a lot of readers on After Graduation from India, where “Ali” is a popular male name in that area of the world, I’m often mistaken for a guy! That mistake usually makes me laugh, and it’s easy enough to correct the other person.
So what challenges have you faced as a global worker?