Writing for American readers needs a bit more than "solid grip on the English language". A writer should understand what American readers like, accept and expect from a write-up. Read on to set your bearing accurately so that you can evoke an interaction from your American readers.
Anima’s day starts with going through the newsletters she has subscribed, reading the articles that appeal to her, diving deep to make notes, and then turning towards her content calendar to check what is scheduled for the next publishing date. She is one of those Indian writers who has completed a creative writing course from the U.S.A. and now returned home to work for a content marketing company.
But this has not been the way when she started her writing career. Although a good student of Literature, she faced her shares of challenges in tackling U.S. English. And when the American editor started rejecting her write up regularly, she decided to call it quits and learn the trade from its hometown. As a non-native speaker, and more so as an Indian, Anima grew up learning the British version of the language. Therefore, to her, American English became a completely new language to date with. A relationship she started after breaking her ties with the “British” form.
In general, from a written piece, the American readers' expectations are different from any other native English speakers. They like to read the core point at the start and later, in the body, count on the establishment of the point with references and data. Their need to read an article revolves around their need to absorb “information.” As a writer, you need to learn the art of informative writing, without losing out on the appeal.
American readers do not expect much. But for a non-native English writer meeting that expectation can turn out to be a daunting task if the writer doesn’t keep an eye on the following:
At the start of your write-up, call a spade a “spade” and a crash in the market, “a crash in the market”. Generally, American readers love to hear the problem statement at the very beginning. This allows them to understand what is in store. An upfront problem or resolution statement helps them decide whether they would dive deep, simply skim, or completely ignore the piece. A quick jump to the main topic or opening an article with it helps in grabbing the attention of the right audience.
A writer always writes with an audience in mind. One of the characteristics of the American audience is, more often than not they are in a hurry and need the information served up in a “snap”. For you, it’s only logical that you start your article with the main points, help your audience form an idea, and then beef it up with information to hold them throughout.
Simple sentences make any American reader "run" through a write-up. But writing in simple sentences is probably the most complex task.
In case you question, “Why simple sentence?” I’ll offer two reasons. First, a simple sentence is easy to comprehend and is less taxing to a brain. Therefore, when it comes to reading, an American reader will always prefer simple structure to complex or compound.
In case, an article needs compound and complex sentence structuring, a writer will choose the former over the latter. Because, in all probability, a complex sentence will naturally come with more than one thought, where, although the thoughts are connected, they will drive a reader to the edge of going insane, as deciphering the meaning of the sentence will be far too much an ask from a reader who’s waiting for a bus, or going through your article before the day starts. You got that easily, didn’t you?
In contrast, (here comes the second) simple sentences help the readers connect the dots and draw the complete picture, quickly.
Passive sentences read interesting as they clearly convey the message. These sentences serve best when the emphasis is needed on the action, but the actor. Now, beware of the flipside.
Although American readers love to read only information or action, it becomes tough to read only the actions without the knowledge of the actors.
It's better to introduce characters in your write-up and connect the actions to them. This approach offers a two-fold benefit for both writers and readers: for the writers the sentence construction becomes easy and for the readers, the sentence comprehension becomes a breeze.
Passive construction works best in situations where the character or the actor is undefined or the writer doesn’t know who performed an action.
As a writer, once you understand the aspects you need to focus on, it becomes easy for you to write for American readers. In case you are wondering how to go about it, here is a broad outline you may follow:
Anima never beats around the bush using obtuse introductions. She keeps it brief and directly drives to the point. With her primary strength-research-she manages to land on the topic quickly and start a discussion. It lets her readers understand the topic without much effort. Moreover, as she starts her article with the objective, it’s logical that she will continue the flow and sew one relevant information to another. This makes her write-up less fluffy and more engaging for an American reader. As a result, most of her readers either leave a comment, react, share and connect with the brand she represents.
She misses a few readers as well. But Anima doesn’t seem to worry much about the loss. To her, it’s the people who invest time in her writing are more important. The readers who leave her midway possibly don’t find her write up appealing. These readers may not be a part of the actual target.
It took Anima sometime to pick this up, but she finally did it. Keeping sentences short and succinct is a combination of art and science that she learnt over time.
When you write, it becomes difficult to control your flow of thought. Ideally, you shouldn’t do that. You simply go on putting words to your thoughts, completely forgetting about the technicalities of a write-up. So much for the art part.
Later, when you come back to edit your piece, keep the pen away and pick up the hammer and chisel. Your killer copy lies within the words you have written, you simply need to chip away the parts that are not required. Make the sentences action driven and sculpt out a fast reading piece from your words. This is the time when you start breaking the long sentences into smaller pieces and arrange them logically to craft a paragraph that is easy to understand.
As a thumb rule, active construction helps in constructing a fast reading article. It’s difficult to write simple sentences, keep the length short and keep the voice passive. Hence, as a result, you’ll invariably land on using active voice in your sentences. Once you get in the groove, the trick will be to identify the sentence that needs to be in passive. That spotting will give you a perfect mix of active and passive voice to make your write up informative and appealing.
Today, Anima oversees three accounts all across the USA. She writes and edits content for them. The posts and articles not only get traffic for her clients, they also trigger reactions, comments and action.
In a global village set up, where the need to understand each other’s culture has become a norm, Anima managed to carve out a win-win situation for her clients, her company and her.
Her clients are happy as they get a constant flow of leads, her company is relieved as they do not have to get into an endless cycle of feedback and as a writer she is happy as not only her write-ups are getting accepted and published, they have stopped coming back from an editor’s desk as a nightmare in the middle of her sleep.