First of all, “culturally and linguistically diverse communities”, CALD, are those communities that were either born overseas or one of their parents did. In this article we will explore different ways to improve our writing when communicating with culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Here is a summary of what we will cover:

1. A myth that improves accessibility within culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Many people believe that you shouldn’t write as you speak. A lot of NAATI certified translators think that too. But the truth is, we may have been taught that writing needs to have a more formal register than speaking. I personally learnt that writing and speaking are two separate tasks and that the words you say should not be converted into the written word.

This is why we think you should disregard this rule when writing for culturally and linguistically diverse communities:

When we talk, we tend to simplify our message. And we work harder to be clear in our meaning. We make an extra effort, because we have someone in front of us listening.

In general, written messages tend to be better expressed when they are conversational, rather than formal. Most of us speak more than we write. So if you want to improve the accessibility of your health promotion material when communicating with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, start writing the way you speak.

Here are some tips:

An example of this is to ask questions in your document headings, as I’ve done with this post. We tend to use shorter and simpler words when we speak, too. That makes them a better choice for your documents. There is one thing we do when speaking that should NOT be done in writing – make sentences long and convoluted.

When speaking we have a tendency to mash sentences together. If you do that in writing, your sentences will be too long and difficult to understand. Instead, keep them short – the shorter the better. Next time you’re working on a document for translation, write it more conversationally.

  • Ask questions in your document headings, as I’ve done with this post.
  • Use shorter and simpler words, like when we speak.
  • Do not make your sentences long and convoluted, like we do when we speak.
  • Use contractions, they have been forbidden for years but they are effective.
  • Incorporate the everyday words that your audience uses, even if that means using slang.

Culturally and linguistically diverse communities

2. Cut the waffle! Why too much content can ruin your resource

I often write and talk on LinkedIn about the importance of using Plain Language when writing for culturally and linguistically diverse communities. It makes the difference between the piece being widely read and understood, or it being ignored or – potentially dangerously – misunderstood.

It is actually quite common organisations to add way too much background information to their community translations and this leads to the reader disengaging because they don’t understand it or find it relevant.

For instance it’s very common for health organisations to add too many clinical details that culturally and linguistically diverse communities won’t necessarily understand and aren’t essential to the objective of the resource.

This is why I always say that the more you plan your resource and understand your audience, the more effective your translations can be.

The more unnecessary information that you add, the more diluted your essential message will be, and the higher the chance of losing your audience half-way through.

Once we explain that readers of community translations want information but not any padding, they understand why it is important to remove this from the project and we can proceed.

Sometimes waffle takes the form of filler words (usually ending in -ly in English) and sometimes it’s simply the information that’s too advanced for the reader to understand.

The trick to getting rid of information-type waffle is to know what’s important and what is less so. Then we can concentrate on the important information and discard the rest.

To work out what is truly important, we need to have a very clear idea of:

  • what we want culturally and linguistically diverse communities to LEARN, and
  • what we want them to DO.


In communicating with culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD), it is essential to challenge the myth that formal language is necessary for written communication. Instead, adopting a conversational tone, using simpler language, and avoiding lengthy sentences can enhance accessibility. Embrace techniques like posing questions, using contractions, and incorporating everyday words, including slang.

Additionally, it’s crucial to cut through unnecessary content, as excessive background information can hinder comprehension. Planning resources with a clear understanding of the audience’s needs ensures effective translations. Professional translation services in Australia play a vital role in bridging language gaps and delivering clear, culturally sensitive information to diverse communities, ultimately fostering inclusivity.

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About the Author: Sonia Sanchez
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