Writing for your audience: overseas students

One of my Spanish ‘intercambio’ friends has recently booked a place on a summer course in London to improve her English (which she speaks to a good level already).

She’s also booked a room with Nido, accommodation for overseas students. She received the following email from Nido, but asked me for help because she couldn’t understand all of the details.

Original letter

We are happy to inform you that your application has been successful and we have provisionally booked a room for you and your application is now pending. [Is the application successful or is it pending? This is confusing.]

In order to confirm your reservation, you will be required to make payments as outlined in your payment plan.

The refundable damage deposit and 2 weeks rent in advance is due first, shortly after receiving this acceptance email.

Please note that your damage deposit will be refunded on the same method it was paid.

A copy of your payment plan is attached.

There are three method of payments accepted:

Credit Card: Attached is a copy of the credit card authorisation form for you to fill our and send back to us via post, email or fax: +44 203 102 1001.

Bank Transfers: Bank transfers are accepted as well and a copy of our details is attached.

Cheques: If you wish to pay by cheque instead, it will need to be made payable to “Nido King’s Cross Limited” and this can be sent to us in the post to the following address:

Nido Student Living, Reservations Team, 200 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JP

PLEASE NOTE THAT WE ARE A CASHLESS BUILDING AND DO NOT ACCEPT CASH

Once all required payments have been received your booking will be confirmed and we will require the following documentation:

  • Acceptance letter from university or college
  • Passport and VISA copy
  • 2 passport photos

For further information regarding general policies, please visit our webpage: www.nidolondon.com alternatively a member of our reservations team can be contacted.

Your reservation summary is indicated below:

Name:  XXXXXX

Period: 2 weeks

Check in date: XXXXX

Accommodation type: Nido single cube

Rate per week: £240.00

Payment plan: See attached excel sheet

[Table regarding ‘Cancellations and refunds’]

Extend the use of the tone of voice

At first glance, to a native English speaker, this is pretty well written and clear (as a standard response letter). But take another look and you’ll see that there’s a lot of words that could be cut out, making the information more concise and easy to understand for the intended recipient.

In addition, this email has six attachments! That’s an overwhelming amount of information.

And why the formal approach? Nido has a funky, youthful website; why not extend this to the confirmation email, which is one of the first communications with the student coming to stay, by using an informal tone of voice?

Alternative letter

I’d suggest the following:

Your application has been successful! We have provisionally booked a room for you. To confirm your reservation, you must make the payments listed in your personal payment plan (attached).

The refundable damage deposit and two weeks’ rent are due first; please pay them as soon as you can. After your stay with us, the damage deposit will be refunded in the same way as you pay it now.

We accept three payment methods:

  • Credit card: Complete the credit card authorisation form (attached) and send it back to us via post, email or fax: +44 203 102 1001.
  • Bank transfer: Our bank details are attached.
  • Cheque: Make your cheque payable to ‘Nido King’s Cross Limited’ and post it to us.

Our address is: Nido Student Living, Reservations Team, 200 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JP

Please note that we do not hold cash in our building; we do not accept coins or notes.

Once we have received all of the required payments, we will confirm your booking. You then need to send us:

  • a copy of your university or college acceptance letter
  • a copy of your passport and visa (if applicable)
  • two passport photos.

To find out more about our general policies, please visit www.nidolondon.com. You can also contact our reservations team, who will be happy to help you!

Your reservation summary

  • Name: XXXXXX
  • Period: 2 weeks
  • Check-in date: XXXXX
  • Accommodation type: Nido single cube
  • Rate per week: £240.00
  • Payment plan: attached

[Table regarding ‘Cancellations and refunds’]

Simple and approachable: not just for web copy!

This still isn’t perfect, but I think it’s an improvement – it’s easier to understand, simpler language and friendlier (with more use of ‘we’ and ‘you’).

These are generally thought of as things to keep in mind when writing web copy. It’s not a website, of course, but they still apply, especially as there is a large crossover of audience characteristics.

I’ll send it to my friend to see what she says and let you know! What do you think?

(PS – Dear Nido: if you happen across this post and like my suggested alternative, please contact me to request its use. Thanks very much!)

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