Multinational Houston Company
United States Headquarters
Dr. Natalia Matveeva, University of Houston - Downtown
ENG 6310 – Intercultural & World Communication
Fall 2011 Semester
Internationalization priorities and concerns:
Resolve complaints about miscommunication and misunderstandings
between U.S.-based and foreign employees.
Create documents and deliverables that conform to a shared standard.
Accommodate the multiplicity of cultures represented within the company.
Minimize conflicts and misunderstandings while maximizing team
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. BASIC RULES OF COMMUNICATION.............................................................................................................6
III. VISUAL DESIGN .......................................................................................................................................10
IV. PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNICATION ...........................................................................................................11
V. TECHNOLOGY USAGE...............................................................................................................................12
VI. CULTURAL FLUENCY................................................................................................................................13
VII. RESOLVING CONFLICT ............................................................................................................................16
APPENDIXA – MEMO TEMPLATE...................................................................................................................20
APPENDIX B – EMAIL TEMPLATE....................................................................................................................21
APPENDIX C – US BUSINESS LETTER TEMPLATE...............................................................................................22
What’sin This Guide?
The 2011 editionof thisguide providescommunicationguidelinesfor interactingwithmulti-culturaland
international audiences. Thisguide includesthe followingresources:
Informationaboutvisual andverbal communication
Reference informationoncultural fluencyandresolvingconflict
Who Is This Guide For?
Our company: Adheringtothisguide will helpourorganizationachieve itsobjectives,increase productivity,
improve jobsatisfaction,championdiversity,andcreate awelcomingenvironmentwhere everyone feelsvalued
Our employees: Thisguide appliestoemployeesatall levelsof the organizationfromindividual contributorsto
executiveleadership. Teammemberscanuse thisdocumentnotonlyas a guide for effective andinclusive
writingstyle,butyoumayalsouse it as a reference forimprovingbehavior,settlingworkplace conflicts,
performingaudience analysis,orimprovingcultural fluency. Be sure to returnthe Acknowledgement
Agreementonthe lastpage to yourmanager.
Be aware that privacylawsdifferbyregionandbycountry. Privacyincludesawide range of issuesrelatedto
communication,personal healthinformation,finances,andonlineactivity. Pleasenote thatprivacylawsvary
widelybetweenthe UnitedStates,Europe,andAsia. Europeancountries inthe EuropeanUnionhave some of
the strictestprivacylawsinthe world.
Employeesare accountable fortheirownbehaviorandthe companyprohibitsall formsorharassmentbetween
employees. Anywitnessorclaimof harassmentshouldbe immediatelyescalatedtohumanresourcesasmid-
managementisnottrainedorsuitedtohandle issuesof harassment. Inthe eventaharassment complaintis
filedwithhumanresources,the companywill investigatethe complianttothe fullestextentpossible. Be aware
that harassmentclaimscanarise fromemail or otherformsof electronicoronline communication,and
harassmentisnotconfined toduringbusinesshours. Harassmentmayinclude anyphysical orverbal
misconductthatcreatesa hostile environmentforanotheremployeebasedontheirage,gender,sexual
orientation,race orethnicity,religion,national origin,disability,oranyothercharacteristicevenif nota “legally
Some examplesof harassmentmayinclude:
Unwelcome comments,jokes,epithets,threats,insults,ornegative stereotyping,OR
Unwelcome physical contact,damagingpersonal property,offensive gestures,anydemeaningact,or
any displayof derogatoryorpornographicpictures,photos,orothergraphical media.
Please be aware harassmentisnotalwayslimitedtosexual innature;nonethelesswhenharassmentis
sexual,itcanoccur betweenoppositesexesorbetweensame sexes. The U.S.Supreme Courtruledin
Oncalev. SundownerIndustries thatsame-sex sexual harassmentcananddoesoccur and ispunishable
Anti-harassmentanddiversitytrainingiscompulsoryduringthe monthof hire forall new employees
and once everyotheryearforincumbentemployees.
Annual evaluationswill be conducted annuallyeach April. Inputisobtainedfromthe followingsources:
Your second line manager
One persononyour team
One personinyour departmentbutnotonyour team
One of yourcustomersor colleaguesinanotherdepartment(if applicable)
You will be rankedona five pointscale where one isthe lowestandfive isthe highestranking. Datais
aggregatedbyyour managerintoan annual performance appraisal witha360 degree view of yourperformance.
Disagreementswithyourfinal rankingsineachcategoryorsubcategoryshouldbe raiseddirectlytoHR rather
than yourmanager. Raisesand meritincreaseswill be retroactivefromApril 1,andwill appearsometimeduring
the May pay cycle. Please note,raisesandmeritincreasesmaynotbe rewardedforeveryemployee andpay
increasesare contingentuponbothcompanyandindividual performance. Employeesrankedinthe bottom20th
percentile will be automaticallyenteredintoourperformance improvementprogram. These employeesare in
jeopardyof terminationif,aftersix months,theirperformance hasnotimprovedtodesirable levels.
II. BASIC RULES OF COMMUNICATION
Writing in an international style means simplicity. Using plain English and simplifying how information is
communicated helps translators and readers with limited English proficiency understand written communication.
Grammar & Plain EnglishStandards
Plain English is sometimes also referred to as plain language. Plain English standards emphasize clarity and
elimination of technical jargon in writing. Using Plain English standards also helps reduce cost and improve
efficiency for language localization and translation initiatives. Verify spelling using spell check, realizing that
spell check is not always completely reliable.
Basic rules ofPlain English Grammar
1. Always write with your audience in mind.
2. Avoid slang, jargon, colloquialisms, and clichés.
3. Carefully edit documents to eliminate any potential ambiguity.
4. Chose simple, common, and concrete words over complex words and use these words consistently.
5. Consider bulleted lists for a list of conditions or symptoms. Separate sequential steps into a numbered
6. Create a table of contents and/or a table of figures for longer documents.
7. Eliminate gender bias or sexist language.
8. Do not use all capital letters except for acronyms.
9. Do not use double negatives.
10. Incorporate parallel structure for serial lists.
11. Omit compound prepositions.
12. Keep the subject and verb group phrases as close together as possible.
13. Minimize the use of present participles and gerunds (-ing words) and avoid infinitives such as “to be.”
Instead, use action verbs.
14. Punctuation marks are language specific. Punctuate sentences carefully and in the correct places.
15. Use active voice.
16. Use determiners such as “a,” “an,” and “the.”
17. Use headings when possible.
18. Use personal pronouns when appropriate.
19. Write short sentences and omit unnecessary words.
20. For more information, see the Federal Plain Language Guidelines at
http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/bigdoc/index.cfm. Also see Thirty-nine Steps for
Writing Plain English at http://www.plainlanguagenetwork.org/Resources/lutz.htm.
Use International Organization Standardization (ISO) 1973 for punctuation.
Always check English punctuation to ensure correct use for any documents that will be translated.
Punctuation marks are language specific. For example, the use of the question mark in English is not a universal
sign for questions or information (Bosley 263). According to some research,only 48 percent of a tested
population understood the question mark’s use.
Always declare acronyms on first use, and capitalize all letters of an acronym on subsequent use. Only use
common abbreviations such as eg. for example, ie. for additional information, a.m. and p.m. for time, and for
Use International Organization Standardization (IS) 639-1 for language names.
Languages can be represented by a two character code,which is particularly useful for computer file name
conventions. Language codes are always written in lower case.
Table of Common Language Codes
mul Multiple Languages
NOTE: Additional language codes include en-na (North American English), en-z (international English), zh-s
(simplified Chinese), zh-t (traditional Chinese)
Use International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Standard ITU-T E.123 (1988).
The plus sign “+” represents any number or numbers a person must dial to get a line before dialing the actual
Telephone Number Syntax Examples
Call +1 713 224 3700 to reach Eric Roberson in North America.
Call +65 6526 3855 to reach Wendy Gaines on her international mobile phone.
Use International Organization Standardization (ISO) 4217:1990 for currency codes.
Remember that the dollar sign “$” symbol is not unique to U.S. currency. Write the amount followed by a space
and then the currency code in all capitals.
Currency Syntax Examples
Our services are priced at 99 USD per hour.
Our services cost 2001 EUR per year.
Table of Common Currency Codes
U.S. dollar USD
Use International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) SI Brochure,7th
Do not get confused by the International Organization Standardization (ISO) Handbook Quantities and Units or
ISO 31-0:1992. Do not use a comma to separate numerators from denominators. Always use a period or dot for
correspondence from our company. Express large numbers in their smallest form to make them easy to read.
Example Decimal Syntax
To represent 3,700,000, write 3.7 million.
To represent the decimal equivalent of pi, write 3.14.
Dates and Times
Use International Organization Standardization (ISO) 8601:1988 for date and time expressions.
Using the correct syntax will eliminate ambiguities for date and time notations used in Canada, the United States,
and the United Kingdom. Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is expressed as “Z,” while local time zones are
expressed as the number of hours from UTC.
Example Date and Time Syntax
To represent the date November 11, 2011: 2011-11-11
To represent the time 6 o’clock p.m. for Grenich Mean Time: 18:00Z.
To represent the time 5 o’clock p.m. for Central Standard Time: 15:00 CST.
III. VISUAL DESIGN
This section on visual design is intentionally brief. It serves as a reminder of the most important visual design
principles, and how certain visual design elements are interpreted by multicultural audiences. It is suggested you
rely on personal knowledge about visual design, keeping these most important concepts in mind when working on
documents and other deliverables.
Colors designate a variety of meanings in written communication. For example, in some cultures such as in
North America, Europe, and Japan, the color red designates “warning” or “danger,” but in China the color red
symbolizes “joy” (Bosley 263). In another example, the color yellow represents caution in Europe and North
America, but in Arabic countries in the Middle East yellow means fertility or strength.
Always remember that “assumptions about the meaning of color are not universal,” and you must research your
target audience before implementing the use of colors in documentation and visual design (Bosley 263).
Use adequate white space for margins and in between section headings. Use a ragged right margin. Use
informative headings to break up sections.
Figures and Tables
For longer documents, use a table of figures at the beginning of the document. Tabulate tables so information is
properly aligned (left, right, or center.)
It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the use of graphics in visual design. Consider using
interviews, questionnaires, or focus groups to test audience reactions to graphics. Participants should comprise as
broad an audience as possible in each region where the graphics will be distributed. The goal is to minimize the
risk of offending our target audiences around the world.
This internationalization guide is not adequate as a reference materialfor graphics. Please consult “Chapter 11:
Visual Elements in Cross-Cultural Technical Communication: Recognition and Comprehension as a Function of
Cultural Conventions” in the book Exploring the Rhetoric of International Professional Communication.
IV. PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNICATION
Understanding the theories that support intercultural communication can be helpful for both verbal and written
interactions. Understanding these ideas may help you excelin your position with the company.
Edward Hall’s theory of high-context or low-context communication “refers to the amount of information that is
in a given communication as a function of the context in which” the communication occurs (Bosley 268). In
high-context communication, most meaning is in the context with little transmitted in the message. Most South
American countries are high-context cultures. In low-context communication, information is explicitly stated in
the communication which is specific and direct. The United States is an example of a low-context culture.
People in high-context cultures often share very similar worldviews based on education level, ethnicity, and
religious orientation. But people in low-context cultures come from a variety of demographic backgrounds and
do not often share the same worldviews (Bosley 268). High- and low-context cultural orientations affect
communication style and perception.
It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the use of graphics in visual design. This
internationalization guide is not adequate as a reference materialfor graphics. Please consult “Chapter 11: Visual
Elements in Cross-Cultural Technical Communication: Recognition and Comprehension as a Function of Cultural
Conventions” in the book Exploring the Rhetoric of International Professional Communication.
If you do not have a copy of the book for reference,please order one and expense the cost to the company.
“Cultures tend to use the forms of communication (such as orality, writing, e-mail, and hypertext) differently
based on how the rhetorical features of the forms correspond to the larger cultural patterns” (Thatcher 468).
Having templates to refer to will help keep communication consistent throughout the company.
Business Letters – See Appendix C
Memos – See Appendix A
Email – See Appendix B
V. TECHNOLOGY USAGE
This section governs the use of information technology and explains the software necessary to be successfulin
your job function.
Skype for group video conferencing – useful for overcoming geographic isolation
Google Talk Instant Messaging (IM) with the Video Chat Plugin – be sure to add each of your teammates
to your list of IM contacts so you can easily video chat with them one-on-one
Twitter – useful of sharing industry information and links to interesting articles online; be sure to create a
Twitter list of your teammates
“World Customs” app by Hooked in Motion for iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
See the Hooked in Motion website at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/world-customs-
Additional Online Resources
Subscribe to Shen’s Books Multicultural Minute YouTube Channel at
Visit the Authentic Journeys – Cultural and Lifestyle Mentoring Facebook page at
Watch the Authentic Journeys video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knOAFJcr-Vs
Watch the Multicultural Awareness video at http://youtu.be/J6PnUxiO8T4.
Computer hardware,the network infrastructure, software applications, and all electronic communication
(collectively information technology) is for business purposes only and owned entirely by the company. Very
limited and incidental use of information technology (IT) for nonbusiness purposes is understood and accepted
provided time spent using IT does not impact job performance. This privilege must not be abused.
Employees are expected to demonstrate a high degree of personal responsibility and professionalism when using
IT equipment and unauthorized access by third parties is strictly prohibited. Unauthorized access will be
prosecuted to the highest extent allowable by law. Any loss or compromise of personal computing equipment
must be reported immediately to your manager and the IT department.
VI. CULTURAL FLUENCY
Cultural fluency is an important skill to perform the necessary functions of your position. Knowing your
audience’s demographics is paramount to being a success at our company. We must make it our priority to learn
about and to appreciate our multicultural workplace.
Audience analysis begins with a series of questions. It is your responsibility to know both your primary and
secondary target audiences. Consider the following important points in assessing your audience and their needs.
Understand how they will use the documents you create.
Consider where and how they will use your documents.
Determine audience familiarity with your topic.
Research your audiences’ demographics.
Religious symbols that carry non-religious meaning have long been used in documentation. Knowing the
meaning of symbols is paramount to minimize the risk of offending your target audience. For example, the plus
(+) symbol is commonly used in North America to represent “First Aid” or “Hospital,” but for Muslims a cross of
any kind represents Christianity (Bosley 263). A crescent symbol is used in Muslim instead to designate First
Do not assume that symbols used in communication are common and non-religious in nature. Symbols can
sometimes offend your target audience. Exercise caution when implementing the use of symbols in
Gender is inextricably tied to language, but minimizing a sexist bias in communication is important. For
example, some words such as sportsmanship or fireman cannot be changed without changing their meaning or
making sense; however,words such as chairman can be changed to chairperson without sacrificing meaning.
Pronouns can be a significant challenge in English, but using “him or her” or “he or she” and “their” will help
reduce gender bias in writing. For romance languages where masculinity and femininity are tied to nouns and
descriptions of groups, follow the rules of the specific language. For example, in Spanish only a homogenous
group of women (as opposed to a mixed group of women and men) can take on feminine characteristics.
Follow these two rules of thumb:
Use common sense when deciding the best action to be gender neutral in word choice.
Follow the rules of gender expression for romance languages or other languages that are tied to gender.
Workplace relationships influence the perception of communication. Workplace relationships in the United
States and most other low-context cultures emphasizes independence and equality between individual contributors
and leadership teams,leaving “a reasoned amount of problem solving to subordinates” (Thatcher 190).
Workplace relationships in high-context cultures typically “value dependency, hierarchy, and close overseeing”
of employees’ activities (Thatcher 190). Related to these distinctions is Hofstede’s concept of power distance,
which “measures the ability of two people with different power and authority to influence” each other (Thatcher
190). For example, South American countries have some of the highest power distance scores,meaning that
communication from a subordinate would have very little influence or persuasion over that of a manager or leader
in the organization (Thatcher 190). Communication in low-context, high-power distance cultures is “usually one-
way and exact,with the expectation that communication will be followed literally” (191).
Heterosexism is the ideology that favors opposite-sex sexuality and relationships, or relationships bound by
traditional norms of “straight relationships.” Gender identity and sexual orientation both play a role in how
communication is received, and sexual minorities may easily take offense to heterosexist language and customs.
In the United States,sexual minorities typically include gay men, lesbian women, bisexuals, and transgendered
persons; however,sexual minorities may be completely excluded in other parts of the word, or this definition may
need to be extended to include additional gender identities in some countries.
Be particularly mindful of heterosexist communication for external audiences, and attempt to be inclusive of the
broadest base of people as possible to minimize offending anyone with alternative views of sexuality. For
example, when listing potential choices for relationship status, consider using “single, spouse, partner or
significant other, widowed, or divorced.” Doing so will minimize the risk of offending individuals based on their
Different religions and different countries celebrate different holidays. Employees must be aware of times when
holiday schedules cause conflict. Know when to expect your teammates to be out of the office. Consider
purchasing an international calendar that lists holidays from around the world. Travelers should pay special
attention to office closures for holidays when scheduling travel.
See 2012 Public Holidays at http://www.123newyear.com/public-holidays/2012/ for a comprehensive list of
public holidays for Canada,China, India, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, the United States,and the United
For a list of public holidays in other countries, please see List of Holidays by Country at
For a list of religious holidays of major world religions, please see Major Holidays at
We pride ourselves with being a secular organization who respects every religion and nationality. As such, the
company provides two personal holidays for you to enjoy time off to celebrate religious holidays with your
friends and families; however, we do not endorse any religious preference over another. Keep in mind the
workplace is not a place for religious argument, disagreement, or turmoil. Any validated complaints arising from
religious opinion or practice brought into the workplace will result in immediate termination of the employee(s).
Employees’ geographic locations and country customs influence workplace relationships.
Workplace Relationships (types)
Do not rely on assumptions of organizational relationships. Make an effort to understand the differences in how
people interact in their workplace based on their geographic location. Two concepts that define different types of
relationships are as follows:
Hierarchical (Hofstede) & Ascriptive (Trompenaars)
Egalitarian, democratic, and emancipatory (Hofstede)
Multicultural audiences may react differently and have different preferences for rhetorical artifacts compared to
U.S. audiences (Thatcher 459). Expect broad rhetorical differences between U.S. culture and foreign cultures.
Intercultural communicators can draw on mono-cultural empirical methods as a basis for audience analysis, but
these methods must be adapted to inter-cultural empirical methods to ensure their validity and ethics in the
following three ways:
“Distinguish broad cultural and rhetorical patterns from regional, organization, and personal
patterns, which requires balancing the fact of difference with the need for generalization”
“Focus on the relationships of communication media and predominant cultural patterns”
“Construct researcher and participant relationships that are sensitive to the organizational
relationships common in the participants’ cultures” (Thatcher 462).
VII. RESOLVING CONFLICT
This is a special section on how to deal with workplace conflict. We honor diversity and champion inclusion at
our company, with the understanding that everyone deserves to bring their whole self to work. Diversity of
thought leads to the most creative and innovation solutions for our customers. Parts one and two of this section
will guide you on through the steps of resolving conflict and understanding the sources of conflict.
Part 1: Talk with your colleague(s) to try to resolve the conflict. Follow these steps:
1. Articulate what has caused the conflict and acknowledge each of you have different perceptions.
Listen to each other.
2. Clearly articulate how you want to resolve the conflict and what reasons you consider important
for resolving the conflict. Be sure to ask for specific examples and do not accept generalizations.
For example, ask “What exactly was wrong with my presentation during the meeting?”
3. When possible, address the issues face-to-face because written communication can be less
productive at resolving conflict.
4. Stick to the specific issues when communicating with others. Bringing up issues that do not
apply to the situation can complicate the matter.
5. Take a break when necessary and revisit the communication later.
6. Remember that the two best solutions are collaboration and compromise, whereas competing,
accommodating, and avoiding are less desirable solutions.
7. Avoiding the conflict may be the easiest route to take, but it will always lead to the least desirable
8. In the end, evaluate the critical feedback you receive. Keep the useful information and let go of
the negative feelings. Accept criticism with a positive mindset and move on. With compliments,
consider them but do not let them overshadow other feedback.
9. Finally, thank your coworker for their back. Be willing to try to accommodate some of their
suggestions in an effort to improve your own personal performance.
10. Ask your manager to mediate or intervene on the situation. Contact human resources to file a
complaint as a last resort.
For more information, see http://hr.ou.edu//employee_resources/conflictresolution/default.asp.
Part 2: Know the sources of workplace conflict.
1. Poor communication
a. Different styles of communication can lead to misunderstandings.
b. Silence or a lack of communication can also cause conflict.
2. Different values
a. People you work with see the world differently.
b. Conflict happens when people do not accept each other’s different worldviews.
3. Different interests
a. Conflict happens when people compete for their own personal goals.
b. Be mindful of organizational goals and your team’s overall well-being.
4. Scarce resources
a. Conflict happens when people compete over resources to perform their jobs.
b. Resource scarce environments can cause conflict despite awareness of the scarcity of available
5. Personality conflicts
a. People have different personalities.
b. Conflict occurs when people do not accept each other’s work ethics or problem solving
6. Poor performance
a. Conflict can occur when some members of a team underperform or miss deadlines.
b. Conflict is inevitable when individual performance issues occur.
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APPENDIXA – MEMO TEMPLATE
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Person, people, department, or group addressed to
FROM: Person the memo is from
DATE: Month Day, Year
This is a template on how to write a memo. Introduce the topic of the memo in a couple of short
sentences. Do not crowd the top of the page and allow enough white space at the top. Be sure that the
word “memorandum” is centered at the top of the page.
Use a ragged right margin and left justify the entire document. Single space each line. Separate
paragraphs with double spaces.
Summarize the background, request, or information. Remember that memos are often used as cover
letters for reports. This would be a good place to make your first point.
Make your second point considering the use of a bulleted list as follows:
Detail any important points in a bulleted list.
Try to keep the list short, but use as many as you need.
Wrap up your second point, then add additional headings and sections as needed.
Conclude the memo by summarizing your main points, and remember to thank your audience for taking
the time to read your memo. Keep your memo as short as possible and to the point. Include the below
lines for attachments and carbon copies. “XXX” below designates the initials of the person who typed
your memo if you did not type it yourself.
Name of attachment
Name of person to receive copy
Name of person to receive copy
APPENDIXC – US BUSINESS LETTER TEMPLATE
Multinational Houston Company
One Main Street
Houston, TX 77002
Month Day, Year
Their Company Name
City, ST Zip
RE: THIS LINE MAY BE OMITTED; BUT USE IT TO STATE THE SUBJECT
Dear Their Name:
We always use block style for formatting business letters; we do not use a modified block format. Your
address comes first and it is the return address. You may omit the return address if you will print the
letter on company letter head. The return address is positioned on the left margin.
Next, type the address. Separate the return address from the date with three carriage returns. Please use
a number form for the day and do not include letters after the day, such as XXth or Xnd .
Enter the recipients address, then the reference line. The reference line can be omitted, but if it is
included always place it under the recipient’s address. The reference line is useful to designate specific
information and may help get a response from them.
Single space the main body of your letter, and use ragged right margins with left justification. Do not
use full justification for business letters. Use a double carriage return between paragraphs so each
paragraph is separated by a blank line. This makes the letter more readable.
Be sure to include a closing that includes your title beneath your name. Always sign every business
letter you send. Use three carriage returns between the closing and your name so you will have enough
place to sign.
Your Job Title
For Internationalization Guide
This acknowledgement agreement must be signed by the department manager for your division,
then this form must be forwarded to human resources by the department manager.
This signed Acknowledgement Agreement must be submitted by either of the following
Fax: +1 713-999-0000
Employees will not be compliant with company policy until this agreement is signed and
submitted to human resources.
I, ______________________________________ [name of employee], have read and confirm
my acceptance of this Internationalization Guide, which covers each of the following topics:
Basic rules for grammar, punctuation, and style
Information about visual and verbal communication
Perspectives on proper technology usage
Reference information on cultural fluency and resolving conflict
I further understand all of my duties, obligations, and responsibilities outlined in this
Internationalization Guide and that this Guide serves as an extension of our Code of Ethics. Any
abuse or violation of the terms and conditions of this guide may be punished with disciplinary
action. Any questions or concerns regarding the content in this guide should be raised to your
manager or to human resources.
I certify that these are true and correct statements by my signature below.