Business English Services
  Intensive English Courses

Ten ways to improve your English language web pages

We decided to take a look on the web to see if we could find any sites written in less-than-perfect English - we didn’t have to look for long! 
Many companies’ web pages are written using beautiful graphics and design programs - and many companies offered their browsers the option to read their pages in English.
… Well … most of it was in that schoolboy style of English which is typical before their teacher has seen it! 
So, if you don’t want people to write articles on their websites about your web pages, here are ten tips which may save you a lot of embarrassment.

1. Make life easy for your readers. Write in shorter sentences!

The following is the sort of long sentence that will send prospective customers to sleep:

“Drawing on their experience in the field of automation of copying lathes and lathes for antifriction bearing races, the company started producing numerically controlled chucking lathes in 1968, followed in the seventies by the manufacture, supply and installation of automatic production lines for complete machining of motor shafts and rotors.”

It is fifty words long and you need to read it six times to understand half of it! It also contains several other mistakes.
Short sentences are friendly and inviting - and browsers want to read them!

 

2. Do not try to put too much information into the same sentence.

All this does is confuse prospective customers and make them click onto another site:

Decades of experience, coupled with creative realisation on the market by teams of committed, young professionals who are able to translate our processes into high-quality products are our strength and driving force.”

This sentence could be rescued in the following way:

“The strength of our company is based on decades of experience and the creative realisation of our projects for the market. Our teams of committed young professionals are the driving forces which transform our processes into high-quality products.”

This solution uses almost the same words in two short, clear sentences instead of one long woolly one!

 

3. Do not use German criteria to design English text.


The use of “we” and “our” makes texts friendly and approachable in English. Avoiding using “we” and “our” makes them sound cold and formal.

 

4. Do not use German spelling rules.

Although the singular and plural of words ending in the letter “r” are the same in German, the plural of “customer” in English is “customers”. So:

“We always try to satisfy our customer.”

gives readers the impression that you only have one!
Other popular examples of this are:

Computer - computers,
worker - workers,
motor - motors, 
bleaching agent activator - bleaching agent activators, etc.

 

5. Do not believe the first translation you find in your dictionary

... particularly if your dictionary is very small. In the following example, the words “measuring security” were probably found as a translation for “Meßsicherheit”.

“Several meter sizes for different pressure stages guarantee in connection without more than sixty years experience high measuring security and measuring accuracy.”

Readers however, may well think that these meters are protected with an alarm system!

As this sentence is only twenty-one words long, we believe we can understand it. So we will try to rescue it:

“We have more than sixty years experience in designing and manufacturing ----- meters. We can guarantee highly reliable and accurate measurements because we produce them in several sizes for different pressure levels.”

 

6. If you cannot find a native English speaker, show your text to a colleague.

Again in the above example, a colleague might have noticed that “with” is a better choice than “without” in:

“without more than sixty years experience.”

 

7. Avoid the following “false friends”:

“kontrollieren” is not “to control”
“Konstruktion” is not “construction”
“Geschäftspartner” is not “business partner”

The following table shows some English and German translations for each of the above:

German

English

kontrollieren

to check/to monitor/to inspect

steuern/lenken

to control

Konstruktion

design

Bau

construction

Geschäftspartner

the person you deal with in another company

Teilhaber

business partner

 

8. Put long, confusing lists into different formats:

“Today we enrich and support the most diverse markets throughout the world with innovative solutions for our customers in the mining, underground and tunnelling sector, the construction industry and road building, ground consolidation, insulation technology, the chemical industry, gas separation and gas application, or the food and beverage sector.”

How about this as a solution?

We provide innovative solutions for our customers in the following sectors worldwide:
- mining
- underground and tunnelling
- construction and road building
- ground consolidation
- insulation 
- chemical plant
- gas separation and application plants
- foods and beverages.

Here, the reader can see for himself how diverse these markets are.

 

9. Check your spelling in a dictionary.

We have found the following “gems”:

Ruff ( the sound a dog makes)

for "rough"

Argents ( types of silver)

for agents

and some rather sweet slips of the keyboard:

Frabricates

for "fabricates"

Substanlialy

for "substantially"

Pubic

for "public"

      

10. Be particularly suspicious of English phrases which look like German ones!

“To the Concern” could almost be German - except for the capital letter in the third word - but it doesn’t mean anything.

In this context ”About the group” would probably be its English equivalent.

 

If you follow these rules you will do a lot towards making your web pages - or your brochures - credible to non-Germans. And remember, many of the people who read your literature will not be native English speakers; so they will appreciate simple language too. 

The above won’t make your English perfect, but it will give readers less cause to have a giggle at your expense - and may indeed enable them to consider you seriously as someone to do business with.