Editing Your Translations: Size Matters

Syllabus Translation MontrealPart 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 actually makes matters worse—and some ideas on how to fix it.


French: Il fait doubler les revenus de l’entreprise de services financiers.

English: He doubled the financial services firm’s revenue. [Shorter but definitely not sweeter!]

Better: He doubled the revenue of the financial services firm.


French: Il rejoint l’entreprise familiale en 1985.

English: He entered the family’s business in 1985. [Why add clutter?]

Better: He entered the family business in 1985.


French: Après avoir connu une interruption de service d’un mois en 2013 . . .

English: After a month’s hiatus in 2013 . . . [Slightly awkward!]

Better: After a month-long hiatus in 2013 . . .


Remember that the possessive apostrophe is typically used with animate (living) vs. inanimate (non‑living) things. For instance, you wouldn’t say “the roof’s colour” but rather “the colour of the roof.” There’s obviously some flexibility to that and the definition of what’s living and what’s not is up for debate. Trust your ear. If it sounds funny, re-write it.

Stay tuned for more easy tips on how to cut your translations down to size!

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