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US and Canadian Style Differences: The Asterisk

When it comes to editing, the devil is in the details. The job gets even tougher when you’re editing Canadian texts because the rules are almost the same as for American ones, but sometimes they differ by a hair—or a single space. That’s where the asterisk comes in. According to The Canadian Style, you should put a [...]

BBQ, Barbecue or Grill—What’s Yours?

With temperatures on the rise in Montreal, it’s time to dust of the old hibachi-fire pit-thingamajig. And, if you’re like me, you’re not sure what to call it. First off, “BBQ” is simply an abbreviation of the term “barbecue,”and can be used as a noun or a verb. Same goes for the other fairly ubiquitous [...]

How the Heck Do You Spell Mother’s Day?

Don’t let bad grammar take the heartfelt sentiment out your note to Mom this Sunday. Like me, you may wonder where the apostrophe goes—is it Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day? As is often the case, Google the word and you’ll get a ton of spelling options: Mother’s Day, Mothers’ Day and even the apostrophe-free Mothers [...]

Why “Poisson d’avril” Is Not “April Fish”

Most people would agree conceptually that word-for-word translations are not the way to go, yet so many clients go looking for the original French in the English translation just to make sure nothing was left out and no mistakes were made. This could potentially lead to better translations if the client and translator work as [...]

How Do You Translate “Animer”?

In English, when I hear the word “animate,” the first thing that comes to mind are cartoons. And yet this term worms its way into many a translation—even my own if I’m not careful. The French term “animer” looks seductively similar to the English term “animate,” when in reality, the two couldn’t be further apart. [...]

When Does “Plus ou Moins” Mean Less, Not More?

When I’m on a roll with a translation and I spot the French phrase “plus ou moins,” my fingers automatically type “more or less,” while my brain jumps ahead to the next part of the sentence. And often, that’s okay. But not always. I recently came across the following situation, where “plus ou moins” certainly [...]

How Do You Translate “Fort de”?

Sometimes the trick to a better translation is right in front of your nose. Take, for instance, the French expression “fort de.” I often run across French sentences that begin with “fort de son succès” or “fort de son experience”—especially when I’m translating résumés or bios. And while it may be tempting to slap a [...]

How Do You Translate “en Amont”?

If you look up “en amont” in the dictionary, you’ll find that it literally translates as “upstream” in English. Chances are that’s not the translation you’re looking for, unless the subject is marketing, hydropower, or trout fishing. That said, the term “upstream” can help you get a handle on this tricky French term. Imagine a [...]

Canadian Spellings to Watch Out For: “C” Vs. “S”

As Canadians, much of our news and entertainment comes from the United States. This makes it easy to get influenced by American spelling which—here and there—differs from our own. One small, yet significant way we differ is with words that have a separate spelling for the noun and verb forms. Luckily, this only happens twice, [...]

Is “Gift” a Verb?

’Tis the season of giving . . . and gifting. And while many folks on the interweb are quick to proclaim that “gift” is not a verb, I’m here to set the record straight. It is indeed a verb. The issue is whether it’s too ugly to use. In an article on the subject, the [...]

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