20 February 2013

Oxford comma and more

I highly recommend Angus Croll's excellent posting entitled The Oxford Comma and the Internet here.
I agree with Angus. When it's needed it's important and when it's not, it's not. To my mind there is no point being dogmatically for or against. As Angus clearly demonstrates there are contexts where it clarified and others where it doesn't.

Update, 14 May 2013:
Americans apparently call it the 'serial comma'.
Excellent article entitled 10 Function of the Comma by Mark Nichol here.

Another great debate among punctuation freaks is where to put quotation marks in relation to punctuation marks like full stops (periods), commas and semi-colons. Most Americans always put the closing quotation mark after the other punctuation mark while many writers raised in the Commonwealth do the opposite.

Again, I favour of pragmatism over dogmatism. On each occasion I place the marks in what I consider is the more logical and/or more typographically aesthetic position... with apologies to those who favour systematic solutions over logic.

None of this is of much real importance, but it's quite amazing how pleasant it feels to state one's case in the form of a posting accessible to any and all.

19 February 2013

Free FR-EN term research

As of today, I'm offering free advice on French-English terms and equivalents in naval defence.
Submit your queries to

18 February 2013

Better business writing

FT columnist Lucy Kellaway has finally found some good 'corporate guff'. See her article here.
I like the term 'business writing'. It's simple and clear and surprisingly underused.

Reading Lucy's examples from a 'credo' written by Robert Wood Johnson of Johnson & Johnson in 1943, I too was struck by how rare writing this direct and honest really is.

During the many years I've spent writing and translating for the French naval defence industry, it would have been nice -- and challenging too -- to have had a mandate to write or rewrite business and technical documents in this straight and honest style. But of course writing like this is very difficult to sell anywhere, let alone to customers with a different mother tongue and culture, precisely because it is so different and so unfamiliar.

As a result, I have long settled for writing and translations that are close enough to the customer's first draft so as not to ruffle too many feathers, yet a few small steps closer to the sort of style that Lucy so rightly admires. Why? Because I believe this to be a service to customer. Comments welcome.

02 February 2013

Layout guidelines for a specialist readership

As mentioned in my last post, Gican will be distributing a special issue of Sea and Navy magazine focusing on French products and service at naval shows around the world throughout 2013.

Preliminary discussions on this project between translator Steve Dyson (yours truly) and the Met & Marine team focused on how to improve the magazine's visual appeal and readability for our highly specialised audience including procurement agency staff, company executives and naval officers, a high proportion of whom are second-language readers.

We decided to adopt a number of simple guidelines with a view to meeting the needs of our target readership.
These guidelines include:
  • simple, elegant layout  
  • simple, elegant high-readability typeface
  • black type on white background (no coloured type on coloured background)
  • white space between paragraphs
  • minimal use of italics and capitals
  • easy-to-read captions relating directly to photos and diagrams of special interest.
Feedback welcome. When the magazine becomes available on line, I'll post a reminder.

Gican to distribute Sea & Navy

French marine industry group Gican will represent the French maritime and naval defence industries at a number of international shows in 2012. To promote the French naval defence industry at these events, the group asked Mer et Marine to produce a special issue of Sea and Navy magazine focusing on French products and services.
An earlier special issue of Sea and Navy published by Mer et Marine for the Euronaval 2012 show can be viewed here.

A mandate to transcreate

I transcreate a regular technical journalism publication from French into English. The declared aim of this publication is to promote specif...