• Pradosh Mitra

How to Invite a British Reader to Read Your Article

British readers love to read stories that are written with a view point, adheres to a style that fits the context, and brings a smile. When you're writing for your British audience make sure you spend hours editing bee's knees.

After the “10 Commandments,” only a few statements were worthy of being written on a stone. You can consider Shaw’s, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language”, as one of them. For the lack of a wall, the statement appears in every article that talks about the differences in the usage of the language. This one, the second part on writing style to attract a targeted audience, is one among them. In part 1 I covered what invite American readers to read your article, the part 2 naturally had to talk about the readers from across the pond - the British. But before you jump into the style, here’s a rough outline of their characteristics. Britishers are overly polite, hence automatically apologize. They have an obsession with tea, serve them a cup in a time of their crisis and see their crisis take a backseat. Second, only to tea, they have an obsession for queues and form one for about anything. Beware, although legal, jumping a queue is a criminal offence for any Britisher. And of course, they love to be less direct and more elaborate.

Your readers’ want

Now that you broadly know your audience, it shan’t be difficult to write an article that appeals to them. Start off with “meandering sentences, which include several clauses as well as a few polysyllabic words” and rather than bluntly putting your point across, try composing an art with words. A blunt start will be considered as too forwarding too early. Blend in a few idioms in your write up to convey your thoughts, make sure they are contextual and don’t stand out like a sore thumb. They’ll earn you a few appreciations. Never ever lose the chance to narrate a story. Britishers love stories. If you want to state a fact, then build a scenario, introduce characters, sew a string of events with the facts in between them and you’re all set. A few more critical properties are discussed below.

Your views, your analysis

When it comes to a feature, the British readers wish to read the facts and then get on with the analysis. For them an article is not just a piece of information, it is a narration of a complete account that unfolds events, exposes the facts and figures and then analyzes the events against the backdrop of facts and figures. This approach makes a feature complete and maintains a simmering interest that triggers the readers to follow up on the developments. When Guardian reported the death of 270 women due to breast cancer screening IT error, they did not miss out to state, “Families now face the distressing possibility that loved ones who have recently died from breast cancer may have missed opportunities for early diagnosis.” That statement does not report an event or talks about numbers. Instead, it offers an analytical spin and adds a cue for the readers. What happened to the families? What were they feeling? How did they cope up with the situation emotionally? All these questions form a base for developments that the readers may follow up to find out.

Style as per context

For any British reader, a good article is the one that aptly covers the two aspects of a story - purpose and relationship. A clear purpose or objective of a story helps a writer connect with the right type of readers. As a writer, you’re to choose the purpose on the basis of the context. There are two types of purposes, narration and exposition. The narration is used to describe an event, a character or a condition, whereas exposition is used to inform facts, state or explain an argument. Of course, you can’t expect a business reader to read about the childhood struggle of a company’s CEO while reading the half-yearly financial report of the company. Similarly, you can’t expect general reader to read the underlaid arguments while reading what got Harry interested in Markle. Beside purpose, you need to focus on the tone. You need to ask yourself what sort of relationship a reader expects to maintain with a write-up - formal or informal. In case of the former, you should keep your words polished and stiff; however, for the latter feel free to be lax and add a conversational touch to your feature.

Add a tad fun

Smartness is the longer route. Write something ridiculously stupid to earn fame overnight.It’s given that Britishers, love wit, sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek comments. More often than not, these humour are self-deprecating and meant to emphasize their awkward encounters or embarrassing moments. Hence, if you can skillfully sprinkle a few wise-cracks or blend in a dash of sarcasm within your copy, be sure of getting the British readers attention.Don’t worry about whether you should put in a joke here and a pun there, as long as it fits the context, reads clever, and draws a curve across a face, it’s good to use. So if you’re writing a piece on how to roast potatoes and start with your first cooking lesson where you have burnt water, don’t think twice before penning it down.

Your offer

We all know reading dominates our writing schedule. In fact, reading becomes even more important when you identify a change in your audience. Not just in demographics but in culture, behaviour, and language. When the change in language is apparent, making a decision on who should write becomes easier. If you are conversant with the nuances of the language you pick up yourself, else you ask for help from a person who is. On the other hand when the language change is subtle then it becomes a tricky delivery for you. You know the language, but are unsure about the finer aspect of communication. In such a scenario devote your time to reading. Note, you’ve got to devote time in that case. Therefore, when you get to write for British readers, devote time to reading British articles, British news stories, and most importantly British literature. When you get on to writing, follow Shaw again, “Write drunk, edit sober.” While writing lets your thoughts flow, pour your ideas and fill the pages with what you’ve researched. But when you get on to editing, then refer to whatever you’ve picked up from your reading. Initially, it’s always good to ask a British editor to check your draft. Strongly suggest correcting the writing on MSWord with the Track Changes option activated. That way you’ll get to see your writing and the corrections. This view is priceless. But before you ask an English to work on your writing, you need to do a bit of editing yourself. And when you do that, keep the following in mind.

Paint a picture with words

I am ready to commit the crime of being repetitive, repetitively. Your write up is not only about communicating stats and reference. Your write up is about an unfolding a story, it’s about “behind the scenes”, it’s about your personal analytical view. Don’t just put the figures bluntly and state the facts in cold words. Your smart readers can get those by their own research, but what they won’t get is your thought, analysis and voice. And that’s what they want.

You can put that in only when you get into the editing cycle. For the first few writings, you may need to edit multiple times. Once you get the hang of it, then it becomes natural and fluid.

Keep your style contextual

This requires a bit of planning. Much before you start writing you need to make a note of what and who you are writing for. It could either be a thesis paper for your college or on machine learning, or a white paper on artificial intelligence, or an e-book on the art of storytelling, or a lighthearted blog post on all in a day’s work. Get a complete understanding of your theme and topic, once done, get on to understand your audience. These two will help you guide on the purpose of your write up - informal exposition or formal narrative.

You can use the below style map to finalize on the style and then move get on to your writing:

Style Map

Make it humorous

“Why so serious?”, remember that adage from The Dark Knight? When you write for a British audience, keep that adage in mind. They love to find humour in everything. Hence, while writing a research on Pterodactyl’s anatomy, starting off by saying, “it’s a bone-dry topic” won’t hurt the writing much. Humour makes your write up interesting, appealing and riveting. But, you got to use it smartly. Use them either at the start of a paragraph or at the end. A good humorous write up will generally have the thunder stored for the conclusion, it could either be the conclusion of a chapter or the entire work. Keep in mind, don’t go overboard with lighthearted statements. That’ll dilute the entire purpose of your work and leave your readers confused. Once again, don’t think about it consciously. A well-thought joke may not read funny. Go with your flow, if you find a crack, seal it wisely. And of course, put your finishing touches at the editing desk.

We know that the world has two distinct styles of speaking English, American and British. Although the American style is used in most of the places, you shouldn’t ignore the rest of the globe. There lie 2.3 billion people who prefer British English. So when you plan to talk to that population, it’s better to understand and learn the style they’re comfortable in. It’ll make your write up welcoming and your call to action appealing.

What do you think? Do you have any characteristics to add? Share your views, thoughts and experience below in the comment box.

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©2018 by Pradosh Mitra.