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3, SEPTEMBER 2010 325

John R. Kohl
The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear,
Translatable Documentation for a Global Market
Book Review
—Reviewed by

Index Terms—Business communication, global English, globalization, style guide, technical communication,

n the current global business environment,
is the most common spoken language
global business transactions. The text’s design
is similar to Edward H. Weiss’s The Elements of
International English Style [1]. Both texts argue
and is often the language of choice in professional that to effectively communicate globally, one must
communication and business operations. Most write short and simple sentences and eliminate
global companies use English in conducting unnecessary nontechnical words. However, Kohl
business, and the many variations in English takes it a step further, looking to technology’s
grammatical style and usage often result in present and future and to the relationship between
mistranslation and miscommunication. Misuse professional communication and technology. He
of traditional grammar rules can cause human considers not only writing styles but also how
and language technologies to mistranslate texts, writing styles are interpreted and used by software
and mistranslation can result in confusion, technologies.
legal liabilities, and loss of time and profit. To
help professional and technical communicators Kohl uses a combination of written text, flowcharts,
eliminate ambiguities and uncommon nontechnical idea and warning boxes, examples, and anagrams
terms and, thus, prevent mistranslations, Kohl’s to aid readers in understanding complex issues in
The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Global English writing. Although the book includes
Translatable Documentation for a Global Market a table of contents, each chapter begins with its
provides many guidelines for meeting the immense own contents list for quick referral. The appendices
need for clear and concise communication in also list additional examples of content reduction,
technical and global environments. Kohl’s book include additional information on revising sentence
is an excellent resource for technical, scientific, structure, and provide more data on how to improve
proposal, and medical writers and editors as well translatability and readability with syntactic cues.
as scholars writing for global audiences. In the My only criticism is that the glossary could be
preface, Kohl states that the book is a style guide expanded because The Global English Style Guide
“intended to supplement conventional style guides, covers enormous amounts of information with
which don’t take translation issues or the needs of numerous grammatical and technical terminologies
nonnative speakers into account” [p. xiv]. I believe that readers may not recognize. However, regardless
that Kohl’s text achieves this purpose well. of one’s familiarity with global communication, the
text supplements grammatical skills in a way that
Like all style guides, The Global English Style Guide will benefit novice and professional writers. In the
is not meant to be read straight through. It serves following discussion, I highlight four chapters that
as a reference to sentence-level stylistic issues, pertain to all writing levels.
defining terminologies and analyzing grammatical
constructions that one may encounter when using In Chapter 1, “Introduction to Global English,”
English to communicate technical information in Kohl argues for the need to employ Global English
in communicating technical information. Kohl
points out that not only nonnative speakers
Manuscript received November 30, 2009; accepted June 03,
2010. Date of current version August 25, 2010.
but also native speakers of English can benefit
The reviewer is with Northern Kentucky University, Highland from learning Global English. Benefits include
Heights, KY 41099 USA (email: eliminating ambiguities that impede translation,
IEEE 10.1109/TPC.2010.2053071 eliminating uncommon nontechnical terms and
Book publisher: Cary, NC: SAS Institute, Inc., 2008, 293 pp. unusual constructions that nonnative speakers
with index. are not familiar with, and making the English

0361-1434/$26.00 © 2010 IEEE


structure more explicit. Because of the importance lists first, second, and third singular and plural
of technology in translation, Kohl identifies and personal pronouns and the subjects, objects,
explains three relevant language technologies and possessives of the pronouns [p. 98]. Kohl
(machine-translation software, translation memory, highlights the six kinds of pronouns that are the
and controlled-authoring software) that he most problematic for technical documentation and
references throughout the book and uses case continues, in detail, to explain these problems and
studies to illustrate the problems that can occur to offer simple solutions by providing examples of
from human grammatical and stylistic errors. sentences and revision strategies.
Chapter 1 also explicates three abbreviations used
throughout the book: HT for human translation, Chapter 8, “Punctuation and Capitalization,”
NN for nonnative speakers, and MT for machine is the longest chapter and concentrates on
translation. The abbreviations, along with the accurate use of punctuation marks by
guidelines and their priority levels, assist readers in examining common sentence errors. This chapter
determining which guidelines are most significant supplements guidelines offered in conventional
for their situation. For example, a guideline labeled style guides, such as The Chicago Manual of
MT1 means it should be given high priority for Style [2], occasionally suggesting that some of
documents that are to be machine translated. the guidelines be broken to cater to international
readers. Kohl offers Global English guidelines
I found Chapter 3, “Simplifying Your Writing
for ampersands, colons, commas, hyphens, em
Style,” to be one of the most useful chapters of
dashes, equal signs, parentheses, quotation marks,
the book. Kohl argues that clear vocabulary and
slashes, and capitalization. He illustrates how slight
a noncomplex style are important in ensuring
variations in punctuation can prevent translation
understandability for nonnative readers. Kohl
memory software from recognizing nearly identical
warns readers:
Languages differ from each other more
than you might realize, making reading and The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear,
translation processes much more than simple Translatable Documentation for a Global Market
word-substitution exercises. [p. 32] would benefit students studying professional and
technical communication, although some students
He provides many examples of translated sentences
may find some of the terminology confusing because
to demonstrate that merely providing word
the text is aimed at professional communicators
substitutions does not constitute a well-written
who are already familiar with translating
translation, showing how limiting sentence
technologies and complex grammatical structures.
length, using a verb-centered writing style, and
Nonetheless, this book would supplement students’
avoiding unnecessary future tenses will often avert
studies of traditional grammar and editing,
misinterpretations. The chapter also has flowcharts
especially in today’s global environment.
for noun phrases consisting of questions and
solutions that aid writers in determining whether
revision is needed. The chapter also offers examples In conclusion, I believe Kohl’s Global English style
of improper placement of noun phrases along with guide successfully displays potential problems of
corrections and explanations, gives guidelines for translators and translating software and generates
effective verb usage, and identifies what to include solutions. The Global English Style Guide: Writing
in a translation glossary. Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global
Market is well adapted to the specialized needs
Chapter 5, “Making Pronouns Clear and Easy and concerns of editors, technical writers, and
to Translate,” examines pronouns, specifically international readers and translators. I also believe
personal pronouns, which can pose problems for this text is an essential tool for professional
global audiences. Kohl explains that personal communicators and translators and serves as a
pronouns are troublesome to global audiences valuable supplement to traditional style guides,
because in some foreign languages, nouns have and I highly recommend it to any writer whose
gender and, therefore, “translations of it, they, documents may be used by global audiences. In
and them differ depending on the number and today’s growing global environment, that includes
gender of the pronoun’s referent” [p. 98]. Table 5.1 almost all of us.

[1] E. H. Weiss, The Elements of International English Style: A Guide to Writing Correspondence, Reports, Technical Documents,
and Internet Pages for a Global Audience. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2005.
[2] The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed. Chicago, IL: The Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003.