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How Do You Translate “Se Décliner”?

The terms “se décliner” and “déclinaison” seem to crop up a lot in French marketing and advertising texts, and I’ve always struggled to find a short ‘n’ sweet way to translate them into English. Here are a few straightforward translations: The new smartphone comes in a variety of styles and colours. (se décliner) The boutique [...]

When Should You Capitalize Holiday Greetings?

Are your holiday cards ready to be sent out? You may want to double-check your use of capitalization before sealing the envelopes. As my little pre-Christmas gift to you—and to save you unnecessary embarrassment—I wrote out a few simple rules. You can thank me in a grammatically correct card later!   Words that should always [...]

How the Heck Do You Spell “Tuque”?

In Montreal, temperatures are dropping and it’s time for all those woolly appendages to make their annual appearance. A pair of mitts that Granny knit. Double-layered socks. Scarves wrapped across our faces, up to our eyeballs. And a woollen cap pulled snug over our ears, right down to the tips of our eyebrows. Distinctly French [...]

The Word on the Street Is . . . “Gang”

The word “gang” tends to conjure up images of drugs, motorcycles, dark alleys, and all sorts of criminal activity. That’s the case in English at least. So when, at my dinner party, my friend babbled on about last weekend’s adventures with her “gang,” it was no surprise that my mother’s jaw dropped and she shot [...]

When Is It OK to Say “Data Is”?

The quick answer is—most of the time. From high school English to Latin 101, it’s been drilled into us that “data” is the plural of “datum.” True enough. But once you set foot outside the Ivy League, the term “data” goes the way of its close cousin, “information.” It’s no longer viewed as little bits [...]

10 Scary Words to Avoid

With Halloween right around the corner, let’s take a look at some terrifying terms that are better off buried in the terminology graveyard than in our translations. At first glance, these spooky words might sound important, but they’re just a sign of lazy writing.   1. Utilize: Is there any difference between this term and [...]

What to Do with a French Name in an English Text?

The long and the short of it is that there are no hard and fast rules. How you handle French organization names in English-language texts will often depend on the intended audience. Once you’ve determined who and what the text is for, use the tips below to come up with a plan. • If there’s [...]

Editing Your Translations: Size Matters

Part 3 – Getting rid of adjective pile-ups In part 1, I suggest using adjectives—or nouns functioning like adjectives—to shed some pounds from your weighty translations. While this tip often works wonders, once in a while it leads to some nasty adjective pile-ups. Here are a few examples where things get ugly—and some solutions. French: [...]

Editing Your Translations: Size Matters

Part 2 – Getting rid of awkward possessives In part 1, I suggest using the apostrophe—and the possessive—to trim the fat off your translations. While it’s a great tip that I use all the time, keep in mind that sometimes opting for an apostrophe can create awkward phrases. Here are some examples where the apostrophe [...]

Editing Your Translations: Size Matters

Part 1 – Getting rid of “of” Ever notice that English texts are almost always shorter than their French equivalents? That’s because English is generally a concise language, especially compared to French. It’s good to keep this in mind when translating. The length of your final text can be a good indication of how much [...]

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