Keep it active and direct Use the active voice

When you write for those new to English it is best to use the active voice. It is simpler, clearer and more concise than the passive voice.

In fact, many other languages do not use the passive tense. Online translators, which migrants often use, also cope better with active writing.

While passive voice is useful in some situations, it can make the reader feel at a distance from the information. Passive voice is impersonal and it can cause the new reader of English not to take action.

Confusing:

The process takes up to 35 working days to complete once all documents have been received.


Clear:

When we receive all of your documents, the process takes up to 35 working days to complete.

 

Be direct

Make a direct appeal when you give important information to get the reader involved or to get them to take action. A good way to do this is to use the pronoun ‘you’ when referring to your audience. Using ‘we’ to refer to your organisation also makes you more approachable.

When you use pronouns in your writing it enables your audience to picture themselves in the information. Direct writing means that newcomers are more likely to understand and act on their responsibilities.

Direct writing helps you to carefully analyse what you want the reader to do. It makes it easier to put information in a logical order, answer questions and clearly assign responsibilities and requirements to your audience.

Confusing:

After an application form is received, it will be processed and returned within 10 working days. Please make sure to include a return address.


Clear:

After we receive your application form, we will process it and send it back to you within 10 working days. Please make sure you include a return address.

 

Address the individual

Address your audience as an individual, not as a group. This will help you to avoid confusing plurals and gender references like ‘she’ or ‘he’.

Confusing:

Individuals who have been offered a place in an approved exchange scheme can apply for a student visa for the duration of his or her exchange.


Clear:

If you have a place in an approved exchange scheme, you can apply for a student visa for the duration of your exchange.

 

All jokes aside

You do not need to be an entertainer when providing information. Humour does not transfer easily across cultures. Your idea of humour could even offend your audience. This does not mean that your writing has to be dry and boring; if it is informative, interesting and relevant, you will hold the reader’s attention.

 

Give it a human face

Those new to New Zealand learn better from other people’s stories and experiences, rather than from abstract advice or instruction. If you can, find a relevant case study to help you put a relatable human face on your information. Your migrant audience will feel more connected to your information by picturing themselves in the situations you present.