I recently visited a seminar on technical English. It targeted German native writers of English and mentioned some tricks on how to “sound more native.”
Most of the rules are known to anyone who has studied style guides:
Still, many writers, especially academics, ignore these rules, whether they’re native or not. So to me it’s not about being or sounding native, but about writing well. And there are universal rules.
Some German tutorial writers of the YouTube generation are even starting to write in “anglicized” German, which has become familiar to readers through software translated from English into a foreign-sounding kind of German.
One characteristic is the inanimate agent. The English “The screen opens a window” would be, in “proper” German: “Ein Fenster öffnet sich auf dem Bildschirm / wird auf dem Bildschirm geöffnet.” (“A window is opened (or opens itself) on the screen”) because a screen is inanimate and therefore cannot “open” something. So you need to make the window reflective (opens itself) or add an invisible subject (is opened). However, English influence has made the literal translation “Der Bildschirm öffnet ein Fenster” almost acceptable.
Some of the suggestions from the seminar seemed odd to me, such as using English jargon instead of writing jargon-free. I mean on the linguistic level, not the terminology. Apparently, some English writers still prefer fuzzy blanket verbs such as “include” & “visualize” or prepositions such as “in conjunction with”, “with regard to” or “via”.
I prefer simple words in every case for 2 reasons:
There are tons of great references. Unfortunately, translators and other writers rarely read and apply them.
I use mostly monolingual style guides, such as the Microsoft manual of style. Their “for dummies” approach leaves no user behind. Also check the style guides of other major content publishers, such as Wikipedia or even the EU.