cmlabs Official Writing Guideline for Malaysia Region

Written by cmlabs | Last updated at Jun 13, 2024

NO. 00284/PP/CID/VI/2024

1. Language Aspects

A. Dominant Dialects

  • Malay, Chinese, Manglish (Malaysian English)
  • EN (UK) is mostly preferred, though most Malaysians use EN (US) and EN (UK) interchangeably.

B. Slang

  • No unnecessary slang.
  • Malaysian English is mostly formal.
  • Manglish is often found in written posts. Here are some of the Malaysian English expressions usually used by locals:
    1. ‘What time you leaving?’ instead of ‘What time are you leaving?’
    2. ‘Wa so terror lah u!’ (‘Wow, you are really great!’) 

C. Common Expressions

  • Malaysians use Manglish expressions when communicating verbally or informally, such as:
CanYes/Alright/Able
CannotNo/No, I can't/Unable
One hundred over, one thousand over etc.Over one hundred, over one thousand etc.

Meh/Ke

An optional suffix usually used to donate a question mark to yes, as in "yeah meh?" or "ye ke?" i.e. "Are you sure?", with the former being more commonly used amongst those of Chinese descent and the latter by Malays.

No equivalent.

Mar

Mostly used as a suffix. Derived from Chinese. For example, a person would say "I didn't know mar"; which somewhat has the same meaning as "I didn't know la" but is softer than "la". When the person says "I didn't know mar", it indirectly states that the person is being apologetic about not knowing something.

No equivalent.

Ar

An optional suffix usually used to donate a question mark, as in "Sure ar?" or "Are you sure ar?", i.e. "Are you sure?"

No equivalent.

Lah/La

A popular suffix to phrases and sentences. Originates from both Malay and Chinese where its usage is grammatically correct, for instance, (Cantonese) "M hou gam yeung la" would literally mean "Don't be like that", except that there is an extra word at the end, "la". Another example: "cannot, lah", i.e."Sorry that's not possible." and "Rest some more-lah.", i.e. "Please rest for a while longer,"; It is important to note that the tone of which the prefix is spoken greatly affects the context of the statement. Example, saying "Okay -lah" while squinting one eye and hesitating the -lah, would be to give a mediocre opinion about something (as in "The food was okay-lah"). Meanwhile, to say a short increasing pitched -lah as in "Okay -lah. We'll all go to Ipoh later", would be to agree about something. "Lah" is also generally used to soften an otherwise angry/stern tone, such as: "Stop it lah" as opposed to just an abrupt "Stop it!", or "Don't be like that la" as opposed to "Don't be like that". It is usually perceived as less insulting when a "lah" is added in sentences such as those, and typically means that the person uttering the sentence is not angry, unless of course, it is said in a harsh tone.

No equivalent.

Gostan

To reverse, especially in the context of driving motor vehicles. A contraction of the term "go astern" (Mostly used in states of Penang and Kedah).

To reverse, to go backwards
Where got?Really? (I don't think so.)

D. Communication Styles

  • Indirect, polite, formal, and not assertive. Giving context before talking about the intended topic. 

E. Word Choices

  • Malaysian English may be used in referring to daily objects.

Malaysian

British / American

Handphone (often abbreviated to HP)Mobile phone or Cell phone
BrinjalAubergine/Eggplant
KIV (keep in view)Kept on file, held for further consideration
OutstationMeans both "out of town" and/or "overseas/abroad".
MC (medical certificate). Often used in this context, e.g. 'He is on MC today'Sick note
CanYes/Alright/Able
CannotNo/No, I can't/Unable
One hundred over, one thousand over etc.Over one hundred, over one thousand etc.
Share MarketStock Market
RemisierStockbroker
  • Note that the rule of localized word choices may not apply in formal article writing as formal EN (UK/US) is expected. Unless, clients ask for an informal type of writing style.

2. Technical Aspects

A. Grammar and Spelling

Malaysians primarily use Malay in media, whether through written and verbal communication. However, like Indonesians, Malaysians are used to communicating in English. When it comes to writing, English (UK) is widely used due to the country’s history with the United Kingdom.

Rules for Writing Numbers

Here are some examples of writing rules for numbers found in Malaysian websites:

Rules for Writing Names

As for naming conventions, Malaysians use patronymics (Malay) and family names (Chinese). Here are the rules to address Malaysians properly in written texts:

  • Malay names*: Najib Razak → shortened from Mohd Najib Abdul Razak, Anwar Ibrahim → not Anwar bin Ibrahim, Raja Petra Kamarudin → noble titles should be included

               * Addressed by the first name

  • Chinese names*:  Lim Goh Tong → surname: Lim, given name: Goh Tong, Michelle Yeoh → Western name: Michelle, surname: Yeoh

              * Addressed by the surname

Rules for Writing Acronyms and Abbreviations

B. Localized SEO Strategy

Though Malaysians don’t primarily use English to communicate, most Malaysians, particularly those who live in big cities, are familiar with English texts. Our SEO content targeted for Malaysia can still be written in English as long as we ensure its relevance to local values. For example, if we use keywords like “best fresh food," we should make a list of local foods that are available in the market instead of foreign cuisines that are completely unrelated to Malaysian culture.

3. Cultural Aspects

A. Social Values

When communicating their means, Malaysians tend to prioritize politeness to maintain harmonious relations. Therefore, an indirect style of writing is preferred. Assertive words to state their point of view are often used instead of direct negative responses when met with disagreement or disapproval.

To put it simply, respect is the key to formal Malaysian communication. In delivering content, it’s recommended to explain the context of the situation clearly and concisely. Additionally, a soft, non aggressive tone may need to be used to help engage the audience.

B. Cultural Sensitivities

  • Gender norms: The majority of Malaysian population is Muslims, so gender norms are strictly defined.
  • Intimacy: Public displays of affection are considered inappropriate. Images of relationships should mostly be appropriate, without showing skins and intimate acts. 

4. Prohibited Content

A. Hate speech and discriminatory content

  • Ill-written content that targets certain groups of people.
  • Spreading personal information online with the intent of bullying.
  • Non-muslims are banned from writing or publishing content that contains the following words, "Allah", "Firman Allah", "Ulama", "Hadith", "Ibadah", "Kaabah", "Qadhi'", "Illahi", "Wahyu", "Mubaligh", "Syariah", "Qiblat", "Haji", "Mufti", "Rasul", "Iman", "Dakwah", "Wali", "Fatwa", "Imam", "Nabi", "Sheikh", "Khutbah", "Tabligh", "Akhirat", "Azan", "Al Quran", "As Sunnah", "Auliya'", "Karamah", "Syahadah", "Baitullah", "Musolla", "Zakat Fitrah", "Hajjah", "Taqwa" and "Soleh".
  • Any products from Israel are not allowed, including the use of Hebrew and Yiddish language.

B. Illegal activities or content

  • Slimming services without doctors’ supervision.
  • Illegal invasive procedures.
  • Content about genital modification.

C. Violent or graphic content

  • Nudity: Pornography of any kind is strictly banned. Visualization of sex and nudity is heavily censored.
  • Weapons, ammunition: Promote products that can cause grievous bodily harm.
  • Cruelty: Offensive depiction in visual images and wording.

5. Additional Information

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