These days an increasing number of technical documents are either read by an international audience or are translated for them. Thus, as a professional technical writer, you need to pay attention to your language to avoid any cross-cultural misunderstandings.
Here are 4 things you should NOT use in your technical writing if you are addressing a universal audience about whom you do not know much about:
Contractions. Avoid contractions like “it’s,” “you’ll,” “I’d,” or “won’t.” Instead use “it is,” “you will,” “I would,” or “will not.” BTW or IMHO will not be understood by readers who are not Internet savvy. Try their open forms: “by the way” and “in my humble opinion.”
Jargon. Avoid jargon, the industry-specific “insider” technical terms. Instead of “cut down on carbs” try “cut down on carbohydrates.” Instead of “single sourcing” try “generating help files, PDFs and documents in other formats from the same source files.”
Slang and local idioms. Instead of “the network kicked the can” try “the network crashed.” “The specifications sheet describes all the functional features of Module A” is much better than “The spec sheet includes the whole nine yards about Module A.”
Direct Style. Most non-Americans prefer a measured and formal introduction in both email and in documentation. So it helps to start every chapter with a short introduction about what will be covered later, like: “In this chapter we will introduce the main configuration commands and follow them with troubleshooting tips.”
If you’re writing a business letter, it is better to start with a soft opening like “Dear Dr. Togalowsky, it was a pleasure talking with you over the phone yesterday regarding the re-coding of the registration program. Within that context, it’d be great if you could please share with us your estimation of the project’s completion date…”
This is much better than “Dear Dr. Togalowsky, hi! When do you think you’ll be done with the re-coding project? Please let us know as soon as you can…”