Writing Across Cultures: Writing to Reach

“I’ll be BACK”

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”

“It puts the lotion on its SKIN”


No doubt when reading these lines, you heard them in your head a certain way.

More than a collection of mere words, these lines maintain a cultural heritage that has permeated through generations, still carrying their particular connotations many years after their debut.

In fact, every time I meet someone called Adrienne I have to yell their name with a contorted face and my arms raised. The fact that you get that 42-year old ‘Rocky’ reference shows you’re part of the larger collective influenced by a unique subculture. In fact, you probably connect with a million strangers who understand and enjoy this film just as much.

This is Benedict Anderson’s “imagined community” at its finest (get cultured and learn about it here)! You don’t know these people personally, yet you share a common passion and camaraderie with them. How exhilarating!


“In fact, every time I meet someone called Adrienne, I have to yell their name with a contorted face and my arms raised”


Using witty references when writing can be a powerful tool in connecting with readers on a deeper level. Not to mention, your reach of new audiences could be exponential with the scope of the internet.

But how do you write to connect with a global audience or even for a culture different to yours? Through utilising the internet, the ‘reach part’ is easy, but what about ‘the connection’ part?


“…how do you write to connect with a global audience or even for a culture different to yours?”


With this question proving to be ever more relevant in marketing and blogging, writers are now ‘writing to reach’ as many diverse groups as possible. So how do you make a foreign reader feel…well, ‘not’ foreign?

At King of Content, we’ve come up with a few key rules for writing to audiences we’re not 100% familiar with, helping us create content (almost) fit for the United Nations!


RULE 1. Don’t be condescending:


Pure and simple, don’t ‘write down’ to your audience. It’s the equivalent of when old, Western tourists scream “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” when they visit a foreign country. *CRINGE* If you’re writing in English, only people with a sufficient grasp of the language will bother to read your post.

Don’t break down your sentences or sidestep grammar to appear more understandable. Continue to write eloquently albeit simply.


RULE 2. Avoid niche colloquialisms:


“[use] common knowledge rather than a trending anecdote three days off 9gag.”


While the Western writing landscape seems to be “meme-heavy” of late, a lot of these references can be completely lost on an audience with no idea of who ‘Pepe the frog’ is or what “we live in a society” means (we’re not sure we even get that one ).

Try to write clearly without employing niche idioms or culturally distinct turn of phrase. However, if you must, older sayings are likelier to be common knowledge rather than a trending anecdote three days off 9gag.


Research other cultures:


An even more fulfilling option is to be your own cultural anthropologist and research the societal nuances of the audience you’re writing for. There’s no feeling quite as rewarding as seeing how your well-researched reference thrills someone of that particular background.

If it’s relevant, not only will they understand your message, but they’ll feel appreciative that you made the effort.

However, this is a double-edged sword. It needs to be used the right way. We cannot stress enough, the importance of fully researching the context and uses of specific references to avoid your efforts falling flat on their face or worse, insulting someone.



Use text AND visuals:


Once you’ve clearly outlined the main points, consider visual aids that may further illustrate your message or enhance the tone you’re trying to achieve. Writing a piece with accompanying visual cues is an excellent way of illustrating complex concepts or even adding light-hearted humour.

Also, don’t be shy to use unique and clever ideas to express what you’re trying to say. Be willing to draw parallels from well-known, relevant sources or blaze new paths with something completely new. You may be pleasantly surprised at how effective it can be!


Appeal to the Human Connection:


 “If all else fails, create content that focuses on our common shared culture, that being ‘the human experience’.”


If all else fails, create content that focuses on our common shared culture, that being ‘the human experience’. What makes a cheesy, pixelated WhatsApp video from your mom something worth sharing the world over? The message behind it that speaks to the human heart.

These types of relatable videos often convey universal life principles that have stood the test of time, striking an emotional chord native to all mankind.

Writing about human struggles and triumphs translates to any language and culture, connecting you with anyone breathing and reading.

‘Please share this quote with 2 million of your friends’-(Image courtesy of AZquotes)


Writing a piece for a distinct cultural audience shouldn’t be approached with trepidation but absolute delight.

A carefully approached and well-researched reference is an open door to creating a genuine bond with a fellow human-being whose only point of difference is that they grew up somewhere else.

If your first cross-cultural writing foray doesn’t get you the conversions you’re after or the leads you’ve anticipated, you can happily start again knowing that you’ve learned something valuable,  fully equipping you to make meaningful connections with people who you might not have had the chance to before.


If we’ve managed to connect with YOU through this blog and you’re keen to see how carefully curated content can mean all the difference to your brand, check out this blog to see if you should be outsourcing to a team of specialists.

Alternatively, if you’ve already taken the ‘content reins’ in your firm, be sure to read our last blog on how video is changing the social media “game”!

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