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Along with other good stuff, Esthee Erasmus observed: <<I had to
completely change my style of writing. According to our Asian
Director, the use of 'you' is HIGHLY inappropriate when writing
documentation, it is so severe that they see it as an insult.>>
This is more true for Japan than for China; my Chinese colleagues,
including one who runs a successful translation agency, report that
Chinese readers are so used to English-style rhetoric that they simply
ignore any discomfort they might feel at a direct Western style. It's
not optimal, but they cope just fine. I suspect this follows the
philosophy of "don't look for an intent to offend unless it's clear the
author is deliberately trying to be offensive".
But Esthee's response does reveal an important general point: where
possible, you must localize your documentation, not simply assume that
your home country's approach will suit everyone. It's always suboptomal
to choose a one-size-fits-all approach to English or any other
language. What plays in Peoria won't work so well in Tokyo, and you
shouldn't expect it to. Of course, there are exceptions:
<<In our line of work we have such a lot of documentation to deliver
that there is no way we can rewrite every piece of documentation
leaving our offices, one that caters for most western countries and
another for countries who require a more formal text. We therefore had
to measure to whom what would be more offensive, formal language in
documentation sent to America would not be as offensive to the reader
as casual documentation sent to Japan for example. We therefore stick
to more formal writing.>>
That's an eminently sensible approach when you can't afford to fully
localize your information.